Abandoned church and narrow railway bridge scupper Fleet Marston plans

The abanonded St Mary's Church at Fleet Marston
The abanonded St Mary's Church at Fleet Marston

An ancient abandoned church and a narrow railway bridge played a key role in the refusal of 2,745 homes at Fleet Marston.

Developers Barwood Land wanted to build the homes, plus employment space, school, care home and railway station at Fleet Marston Farm, which borders the A41.

But inspector David Rose said the scheme fell down on its failure to protect the unused St Mary’s Church and to provide a safe route for cyclists and pedestrians into Aylesbury, particularly at the A41 railway bridge.

Grade II listed St Mary’s Church dates from the 12th century and is where the father of Methodism, John Wesley, preached his first sermon soon after he was ordained deacon in September 1725.

The church was declared redundant in 1972 and vested in the Churches Conservation Trust a year later.

Barwood said people living nearby would finally bring the church back into use as a religious and community facility.

But Mr Rose said that ‘essentially Saint Mary’s stands isolated, reflecting its history as a deserted village and widely open to view from the surrounding landscape. Its isolation, emphasised by its elevated topography, provide the church’s most striking feature’.

He added: “In summary, the proposal would give rise to a major adverse effect on the setting, and thus the significance, of a grade II* listed church. The

‘benefits’ claimed are unnecessary, uncertain, insubstantial, unsecured, and without adequate evidential foundation’.

Mr Rose also said that future residents at Fleet Marston would have to rely on the A41 ‘for access to all forms of transport including pedestrians and cyclists’.

This problem was ‘compounded by the restricted width of the railway bridge which would restrict provision for pedestrians and cyclists to a substandard shared path which would act as a disincentive to cyclists and pedestrians’.

‘Consequently, some pedestrians and cyclists would be likely to turn to less sustainable modes of transport; and the effect of cyclists using the road

carriageway would be to delay public transport which in turn would affect the attractiveness of the public transport offer from the site. The proposed development would therefore not meet the objectives of sustainable development’.

Mr Rose, whose views were backed by secretary of state Eric Pickles, was also concerned about the scheme’s visual impact on the landscape.

He concluded: “The overall planning balance is clear:- the adverse impacts would be very substantial and irreversible; and they would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the proposed development, when assessed against the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework as a whole’.

David Vick, district councillor for Fleet Marston said: “It is very good news and shows that our campaigning was correct.

“It is good news for Aylesbury as a whole, as Aylesbury is in serious need of proper transport infrastructure improvements.

“The current levels of housing development has stretched the town to breaking point, most users find Aylesbury terribly difficult to navigate in peak times, and I personally find that Aylesbury causes more traffic trouble than driving in central London.

“It is time that the county council looked at a decent ring road for the town.

“Perhaps they should look at places like Reading, which has a subterranean ring road.”