Patcham Councillors Object To Royal Mail Sorting Office

Today our Patcham Ward Councillors, Alistair McNair and Anne Meadows, submitted their objection regarding the Royal Mail's proposed sorting office in Patcham. The objection is detailed in full below: 

Dear Liz Hobden

BH2022/02232 - Demolition of existing buildings and erection of storage and distribution building (B8) with associated access, parking, landscaping, re-grading of land, enclosures, and infrastructure works including two substations and an express vehicle maintenance facility. Patcham Court Farm. Vale Avenue.

Please accept this letter as our objection to this planning application. We have four reasons for objecting to this application: not in line with planning policy; insufficient parking on site; intensive traffic movements; risk of flooding.

Not in line with planning policy of the Council

We are of the opinion that this site has been allocated to office use (B1) in the City Plan, not storage & distribution use (B8), which applies to this application. This is an important departure from the local plan and is against our own local policy CP3. Patcham Conservation area, with its historic church dating back to the 12th century, is an unsuitable location for a modern and extremely large storage and distribution site.

We presume that the site was originally allocated for office purposes B1 so that it did not destroy the local amenities and infrastructure of the area. This proposal in a residential setting is not conducive to supporting the local conservation area, and would not respect or maintain the character of the area. In addition, it would also be unsightly as this site is in a prominent position and can be seen from the South Downs National Park. As admitted by the Planning Statement, the two proposed sub-stations would be viewable from vantage points and would not be in keeping with this sensitive location.

Insufficient parking on site

The parking provision is inadequate for up to 400 employees on site with just 85 bays available. This is a highly residential area already lacking in parking provision. The area acts as an unofficial park & ride area used by those who then car share, and there is football parking which spills over into this area.

The Royal Mail proposal has already shown in their own submissions that 46% of staff will use their cars for convenience. This is because there is no adequate bus service for the early morning shifts, and there is still a considerable walk to the site from the nearest bus stop which the proposal claims are merely 700 meters away.

The poor public transport links will result in inconsiderate parking in and around the local roads which is not usually considered acceptable in highways or planning terms. Parking is already limited in the area and this would cause distress to families trying to park near their homes. In addition, it is already hazardous to cross this road and with so many more cars in the area it will become even more dangerous.

Clearly residents would also suffer from “disturbance [including] factors such as speed, volume and type of traffic, noise” (QD27), potentially leading to residents suffering from sleep deprivation.

Intensive traffic movements with this proposal

B8 traffic movement and use this intense would be completely out of character with the location, which borders a quiet conservation area, with its scale and continuous traffic movements from staff entering and exiting the site as well as the HGVs and articulated lorries arriving possibly 24 hours daily. According to the Royal Mail’s own Traffic Plan, of the 180 responses, car trips will actually increase from the current 70 per day to 82, and the number of car shares will also increase from 3 to 8. Walking and cycling trips will decrease substantially. This must be contrary to the council’s environmental aims. Also, it is expected that there will be 162 staff arrivals between 6 and 7am and 213 staff departures each day between 2 and 3pm, at least some of which will coincide both with workers leaving in the morning and with the afternoon school run. If only some of these arrivals and departures are by car there will be severe traffic congestion and increased pollution.

The Royal Mail may claim that they use electric vehicles, but they have not been developed enough for intensive use of this kind and look to be several years away from normal production. It is also important to know that this area already suffers from pollution as the traffic is at a standstill during peak periods and term times due to the proximity of the A27/A23. To introduce heavier traffic in this area is an accident waiting to happen.

Despite the reconfigured entrance from Vale Avenue, it is likely large HGVs will find it very difficult to navigate the small roundabout and narrow road, causing lengthy tailbacks. This will have a tremendous impact on noise, disturbance at all times of the day and night, and, on top of this there will be pollution from HGVs which would adversely affect the neighbourhood. This planning application will not remove traffic from the city centre as lorries will still need to go into the town centre so that residents can pick up undelivered parcels and letters.

Risk of flooding

We understand that the proposed site is within the Inner Source Protection Zone and is a Zone 1 groundwater aquifer. Next to this is an allotment area designated as a Zone 2 area.

This particular part of our natural water infrastructure directly supplies the water of local residents for the majority of the year. There are concerns from residents that the development of this site could pollute our drinking water, as there will be 85+ cars parked here at most times and vehicle pollutants could enter our water system.

At a time of great climatic change with long hot summers and increasingly large downfalls of rain, we are going to need all the water supplies we have. However, as the proposed tarmacked area will no longer allow rainwater down into the natural storage system beneath, significantly less water will be collected for resident use.

As sporadic rainfall increases it is questionable whether the site will cope with the large amounts of water and that the Suds system will be adequate. If it is inadequate in any way, not only is contamination of the water supply at risk but also the increased gathering of groundwater in Old London Road. This could cause considerable damage to the nearby conservation area which is liable to flooding - The Wellsbourne river begins at Patcham and travels down through the town, through the Steine and out via Poole Valley. If the water comes off the hill and joins existing groundwater it will flood. Floods occurred in 2000, and almost happened in 2021 when the water nearly broke the surface.

How much of the drinking water will the proposed green roof collect as this water will not be entering the Aquifer? Are the planned storage tanks large enough to prevent flooding? We 3 also assume that if the storage tanks are large enough, the water would be too heavy for the site. When the site was being considered for the Park and Ride scheme in 2005, Peter Brett Associates reported that:

"The natural soils are likely to be suitable founding strata for lightly loaded structures associated with park and ride. The design CBR values of 2% have been determined for natural soils. Soakaways into the underlying chalk are likely to be suitable for drainage subject to EA approval. There are not likely to be restrictions on excavations on site although there is a potentially high risk of the presence of solution features” (Section 7.5.5)"

A solution feature is another word for sink hole.

We are concerned that the land is riddled with sink holes and the structure suggested for this site, coupled with the rainwater collected, would be too heavy and would be at risk of collapsing the ground underneath it.

We would like to call for a site visit and we reserve our right to speak to our letter and the application.

Yours sincerely Cllr Alistair McNair and Cllr Anne Meadows



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