ONE of the most famous buildings in the Stratford-on-Avon district—Kissing Tree House at Alveston—could have its rural setting dominated by a housing development if an application to the local planning authority is approved.
Kissing Tree House was for many years the home of the novelist, playwright and broadcaster J.B. Priestley.
Since his death at the age of 89 nearly 30 years ago the property has been owned by entrepreneurial businessmen—the most recent being Chris Swan, who has joined forces with Spitfire Properties of Coleshill to propose the building of 18 homes on land next to the famous house.
The homes would be made up of 12 detached properties, ranging in size from two to six bedrooms, and six terraced “affordable” houses.
The plan has already sparked ferocious opposition, not least from the Warwickshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
In a letter to Stratford District Council, which will have the job of deciding whether to approve or reject the proposals, the CPRE’s Nicholas Butler states: “The proposed development would destroy two hectares of pastureland between the village and Wellesbourne Road.
"It would not accord well with the architecture of the village itself. This would be a housing estate on its own, an isolated social unit tacked on to Alveston, not an intrinsic part of it. Such a development is opposed by policies domestic, local and national.”
Mr Butler, who is the CPRE’s representative for Arden and Avon, says that the proposed scheme would seriously spoil the concealed setting of the village, which the majority of people living there were so anxious to maintain.
In particular, it would be adjacent to the handsome parish church of St James, built in 1839, which is now listed,” says Mr Butler.
“At present it can be clearly seen from the south of the village, as can the large Kissing Tree House, another listed building. If this estate were built the church would be obscured by buildings from the south and Kissing Tree House to a certain extent from the west and south west of the estate.”
In objections sent to the district council one resident, Tony Scott, says there is “massive opposition” in the village to the proposed scheme and argues that the development would be “totally and utterly unsuitable” for Alveston.
Much is made of the fact that the village is a conservation area, but Mr Scott stresses that Alveston is not a Nimby village.
Under emerging policies Alveston might be required to build ten to 25 houses during the 2008-2028 period and this gradual evolution, says Mr Scott, would be more sustainable and effective.
However, there is one prominent dissident in the midst of all the opposition—the Rev Richard Williams, the vicar of Alveston.
In a statement to the district council Mr Williams says: “I have absolutely no problem with this development on the field adjacent to the church. It is a sensitive and well thought out proposal which, like the development opposite the church, brings a mixture of housing much needed in the community.
“The field is and always has been for agricultural use, apart from a brief period in the 20th century when the village cricket pitch was sited here, and was never part of the ‘parkland’ of Kissing Tree House.”
Mr Williams concludes: “Overall I believe this to be a good scheme and by far the best way for the village to meet the housing demands being put upon it—preferable to inappropriate ‘infill’ housing within the existing village boundary.”
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