Planning permission has been granted to redevelop the Hobbs boatyard to create a new home for the Rose Toop vintage boat collection on the Wargrave Road at Wokingham BC’s Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday evening.
Despite the Planning Officer Helen Maynard recommending that the application be refused on two grounds – inappropriate development in the Green Belt and detrimental impact on the countryside and landscape character – her recommendation was overturned and the application approved unanimously.
Councillor John Merkel from Remenham Parish Council and Councillor Graham Howe from Remenham, Ruscombe and Wargrave spoke in favour of the application. Four Wokingham Planning Committee Councillors also questioned the grounds of it being refused saying “it will enhance the riverside view, improve the building exterior, provide a home for a really important collection and will become a community asset.”
This was the second application made by Adam Toop who bought the boatyard in October 2020. The first was refused in December 2021 and minor amendments made in response to the Planning Officer’s recommendations. There were no objections to the original or new applications and well over 120+ letters of support were recorded. The Environmental Agency, who originally objected, removed all their objections to the latest application.
It was pointed out by Councillor Wayne Smith that the overall extension of the current building would represent less floor space than the original buildings on the site, which were destroyed by fire in 2004. Also, while the proposed height of the new building would be 1.5m higher than currently, neighbouring buildings, including the Henley Rowing Club, remained higher.
The Planning Officer’s objections for refusal were rejected after it was agreed that the proposal did not conflict with Green Belt policy given there is already development on the site, the changes to volume and footprint are small and the proposals would sensitively enhance the look and character of the site.
Councillors discussed the use of the building at some length, along with that of the proposed mezzanine floor for the collection’s artefacts, art and archives. This was judged to be ancillary to the main use of the site as a boatyard and therefore accepted.
Adam plans to make a substantial investment in the site which will see the unattractive agricultural barns converted into far more attractive wooden clad buildings. The main barn will be used to store, maintain and display this beautiful and nationally significant collection of vintage boats. Facilities for the existing businesses that operate from the site will also be dramatically improved.
The plans will see the boatyard return to a vibrant traditional boating hub. Recognised clubs and societies are to be offered complimentary use of some of the facilities.
Adam spoke to the Planning Committee saying, “With the greatest of respect, I have never recognised the descriptions of the boatyard made by the planning officer. It may lie within the green belt, but it is currently anything but green. Everything we have proposed represent sensitive, community focussed improvements that value and safeguard the future of this important site. It is my sincere hope that the Committee can see beyond the objections and approve this proposal based open the overriding advantages.”
Adam and Penny Rose were supported at the meeting by: Jeremy Irons, himself a classic boat owner, Sir Matthew Pinsent, representing Henley Royal Regatta, David Worthington, Chairman of the River and Rowing Museum, Enda Cahill of Leander, Lady McAlpine, President of the National Transport Trust and Co Chair of the Trad Boat Festival, Paul Brownjohn, a third-generation boat builder operating from the site and representatives from many clubs and societies.
When votes were cast and proposals accepted, the audience stood and spontaneously broke into load applause and clapped the Planning Committee in appreciation.
On hearing the decision, Adam said, “I am truly delighted with decision of the Planning Committee. Unanimously overturning the Planning Officer’s recommendation of refusal was the right decision and one based upon pragmatism and common sense. I owe them, along with all those that have so generously supported our proposals, a huge debt of gratitude.”