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Beenham Village Design Statement (plain text version)

What is a Village Design Statement?

This Village Design Statement (VDS) describes Beenham parish as it is today and highlights the qualities and characteristics that are valued by its residents, as well as drawing attention to what is special about the buildings, open spaces and surroundings. The aim is to provide a context for new development, based on local character and sense of place. The purpose is to manage change, whether that is major new development or just cumulative small-scale alterations and additions. The VDS endeavours to set out clear and simple guidelines for sustainable development, so that it contributes to the local environment and is carried out in harmony with its setting.

How it was produced?
This Beenham VDS represents the end of a process which began in September 2000 at an open meeting, called by the parish council to explain the idea. Ten parishioners attended the meeting; four of them were sufficiently enthusiastic
to join a steering group with two parish councillors. A start was made on the project with the assistance of the Community Council for Berkshire. A second public meeting was held at the end of November 2000, to which representatives of all 20 village clubs and organisations, such as the Friendship Club, Women’s Institute, Youth Club and Working Men’s Club were invited. They were told about the aims of the VDS, shown the Countryside Agency video
and were asked to promote the planned workshop. The workshop, held on Saturday 20th January 2001 was facilitated by the Community Council for Berkshire. Twenty seven people participated, their ages ranging from 7 to 70. An initial exercise of mapping the village got people into groups talking about the layout of the village, its landmarks and significant features. Five groups were each allocated a part of the parish, preferably one they were less familiar with. The aim was to try and capture the essence of Beenham, by a variety of means, in words, pictures, smells, views, and
materials for example. After the groups returned from their investigative walk and had warmed up, each reported to the whole meeting on their findings.

When the steering group had analysed all the material produced from the workshop a small exhibition was mounted showing some of the photographs and giving a brief explanation of progress. The exhibition was held on 12th May
2001 at the Pre-school Easter Fair in the Community Room and then transferred in the afternoon to the Victory Hall for the village market. Once again residents responded well by providing helpful comments. With the financial support of the parish council, the steering group, who met on a monthly basis, continued work to produce the final document. Throughout the exercise contact was maintained with the appropriate officer at West Berkshire District Council.

West Berkshire District Council consulted statutory agencies, national interest groups, relevant Parish/Town Councils, local interest groups and local developers (or their agents) on the final Draft VDS for six weeks in April/May 2003. At the same time the VDS Group consulted with the local community in Beenham. Comments were taken on board as appropriate. The final version of Beenham Village Design Statement was adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) by West Berkshire Council on 8th July 2003 and its recommendations will be taken into account when planning applications are assessed.

How will it be used?
The VDS is intended to be a practical tool capable of influencing decisions affecting design and development in the parish. Its main function is to assist not only residents, builders and designers, but also the parish council and West Berkshire District Council, when dealing with planning applications.The Berkshire Structure Plan provides the overall framework for development in Berkshire. The general policies of the Structure Plan are explained in greater detail in the Local Plan. Together these documents form the current‘development plan’ for the area. The West Berkshire District Local Plan (1991- 2006) was adopted on 14th June 2002. Councillors, both district and parish and planning officers must decide whether a planning application is in accordance with the Local Plan and take into account other material considerations before arriving at a decision. As SPG, the guidance contained in this Design Statement provides an explanation of the Council’s policy position and while it is not a statutory document, it has been the subject of public consultation and has been adopted by the Council’s Eastern Area Forum. Compliance with the recommendations does not by itself guarantee planning permission as each case is judged on its merits.

The character of the landscape setting of the parish

The parish is mainly situated in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) (see page 4). Beenham lies on the north bank of the Kennet Valley mid-way between Reading and Newbury, 9 miles away in either
direction. The village of Beenham straddles a ridge of hills to the north of the London to Bath road, the A4. The surrounding countryside is made up of fields used for grazing and arable land interspersed by eleven ancient, semi-natural woods. The Landscape Character Assessment for Berkshire indicates that Beenham is covered by two landscape character types, which are further sub-divided into landscape character areas:

Type B - Lower Valley Floor; landscape character area B1 Lower Kennet

Type H - Woodland and Heathland Mosaic; landscape character area H4 Cold Ash.

This strategic county wide assessment supports the review of the Berkshire Structure Plan and builds upon the existing landscape character assessments carried out by the former Newbury District Council for the District and by the
Countryside Agency for the North Wessex Downs AONB.

Geology and landscape
Beenham parish contains two distinct topographical areas determined by the underlying geology.

The upland area around Beenham village lies on Tertiary London clay,overlain by a discontinuous layer of Beenham Stocks gravel. This gives rise to village place names such as Clay Lane and Stoneyfield. undisturbed, with grassland where the woods have been cleared. These woodlands provide "a significant structuring element in the landscape"
and "influence the overall character of the area".

In the Kennet Valley the London clay is underlain by the sands and clay of the Reading beds. Both are overlain by Quaternary Beenham gravels of the Kennet system. Where undisturbed, these soils still support rich grassland and wetland close to the River Kennet. But where farmed, they produce a landscape of large-scale arable fields. In particular, there is a river terrace of Grade 1 agricultural land stretching from Woolhampton to Englefield, below the ridge of hills, which still supports intensive farming in Beenham.

Ancient, semi-natural woods are those that have been in existence since at least 1600 and still retain tree and shrub cover which has not obviously been planted. These are generally the most valuable woodlands for biodiversity. Old
Copse is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This wood was designated in 1984 as a particularly important example of the unusual coppiced wet ash/wych elm stand type and contains four other woodland types:

neutral valley alderwood
wet ash/maple
oak hazel ash

When designated, its ground flora was rich and varied. It still includes several species indicative of ancient woodland, some of which are uncommon, such as wild daffodil Narcissus pseudonarcissus and the sedge Canex stigosa.

Many areas of woodland within the parish are designated Wildlife Heritage Sites by West Berkshire District Council because of their nature conservation importance. Several of the woods have wonderful displays of bluebells in the
spring and later in the season honeysuckle creates a distinctive heady aroma particularly at dusk. Some of the woods include areas of closely-planted coniferous trees which can support unusual species of fungi and invertebrates
and provide a feeding ground for visiting birds, such as the redpoll and crossbill. The good management of coppice woods helps to maintain the herb and shrub layer and offers opportunities for a wider range of wildlife. According to English Nature "the existing natural vegetation of ancient woods, the associated animal life and the often undisturbed soil and drainage patterns .... comprise an irreplaceable asset of great importance to nature conservation, which once
destroyed can never be recreated".

The main threats to woodland are development, lack of appropriate management and neglect, often due to the loss of markets for traditional products.

Hedgerows provide safe corridors not only for small mammals but also for birds and bats to fly along. Territorial songbirds will use intermittent trees as song posts and feed from the berries in the winter months. Hawthorn and blackthorn are major contributors to the hedgerows but analysis of one local farm shows the presence of hazel, field maple, dog wood and spindle.

As with woods and ponds, hedgerows need to be sympathetically managed and where possible cutting should be delayed until late February or March to help them realise their potential for wildlife conservation. Creating an A shape (i.e. with a wider base and narrower top) helps ensure that the bottom of thehedge does not die. It is also beneficial to encourage hawthorn planting within hedges as it is the largest nectar supplying plant in the UK and provides food for various species of birds and insects.

The Kennet Valley Countryside Project (KVCP) organised funding and assistance with planting an in-fill hedge behind the church, to link it to the Old Copse and Hall Place Farm hedge plantings. KVCP may also help with an intended formal survey of hedgerows in Beenham. The local Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) has given advice on the grassland management of the old churchyard as well as on the restoration of the pond at Beenham School.

Water features
There are at least seven ponds within the parish which need sympathetic management and maintenance if their potential for environmental conservation is to be reached. Many of them are over-grown but are likely to have accumulated a complex plant and animal community. For example, species such as the ringed plover and little ringed plover are attracted to the large area of surface water within Marley Tiles. Greylag geese, cormorants, more common water birds and eight species of duck have been spotted at Marley Tiles lake. The pond adjoining the A4 and Grange Lane has the added advantage of having an island, thereby providing additional sanctuary for wildlife.The vegetation surrounding this pond provides good roosting and resting-places for ducks where willow trees have fallen into the water. As with some of the smaller ponds, gently sloping edges provide access for various visiting mammals.

Small seasonal streams and springs are also important for specialised species. These can be seen in Old Copse and Greyfield Wood, and in particular beside Clay Lane. They provide important wildlife corridors in conjunction with the
various hedgerows which border and divide the surrounding arable and pasture land.

As new ponds can provide a valuable habitat for amphibians and other wildlife, the school has decided to encourage the regeneration of its pond as an ongoing project both for the benefit of pupils and of conservation in general.

Agri-environment schemes
Hall Place Farm, a lowland farm, producing arable crops and farming a mixture of sheep, cattle, geese, ducks and seasonal turkeys, has taken advantage of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. This has involved taking part in a land
survey with the purpose of helping the owners to farm less intensively and manage hedgerows and woodlands appropriately to reduce the use of chemicals. Hall Place Farm has a wide range of tree and shrub species (over 30 in its hedgerows), diverse flora and fauna and a pond which is due to be restored. The farm will also provide access for schools and other educational groups under the scheme and allow them to use the land for fieldwork.

Planning guidance

1.New development should conserve and enhance the biodiversity of the parish.
2.Native species of local provenance should be used for new and replacement planting in the wider landscape in order to conserve and enhance the rural character of the parish.
3.Individual trees, woodland and copses, hedgerows, ponds and existing field patterns help to form part of the landscape setting of the parish and should be conserved and enhanced wherever possible.
4. The (re)planting, restoration and management of hedgerows is encouraged in order to improve the habitat for wildlife.
5. Any development along the A4 should conserve and enhance views from and to the wooded skyline of Beenham, through sympathetic siting, design and landscaping.
6. The impact of the siting, design and layout of future development, (such as large buildings, prominent roofs and telecommunication masts) on the wider landscape of the parish should be shown to have been carefully considered by developers.
7. The setting of Beenham in the wider landscape should be conserved and enhanced by any future development, allowing the village to retain its own identity.
8. Any new development should respect the prevailing settlement pattern and character of the village.
9 . In any new development important views into and out of the village should be respected by developers. Those across the Kennet Valley and towards Bradfield are particularly valued by residents. (see below)
10. Landscaping should be considered as an integral part of any new development.
11. The spatial effect of the road network (moving from narrow corridors to wide spaces) should be retained by new development, (particularly Back Lane, around the old Stocks pub, Church Lane, Clay Lane and Bourne Lane by the Six Bells).
12. The Recreation Ground, the greens in Stoneyfield and the swathe of verge by the school are highly valued as areas of open space and should be conserved or enhanced by any new development.
13. New development should respect the existing overall layout and siting of existing development within the village.
14. New development should reinforce the grain and form of the village by continuing to be designed in an alignment parallel to the road
15. Any new development should have due regard to the scale and siting of neighbouring properties.
16. Any new development, however small, should respect the prevailing design features of the parish. This does not mean that new or innovative designs will be rejected, indeed they would be welcomed but they should display a thorough understanding of the style, materials and vernacular of the area.
17. Developers should avoid mixing styles and historical references in the same building.
18. Extensions to existing buildings should use similar materials which match the original development and should be sympathetic in style, scale and proportion.
19. Roofs should try to reflect the prevailing predominance of red clay tile and incorporate a degree of complexity in their design through the use of hipped and half-hipped roofs.
20. Builders and developers should give careful consideration to the position, size and detail of windows when designing roof conversions.
21. Where appropriate, the continued inclusion of chimneys, particularly those which are potted and have brick corbelling, is encouraged in new development.
22. The inclusion of decorative fascias and barge boards is to be welcomed where suitable.
23. Guttering and downpipes should be discreet and appropriate to the design and age of the house.
24. When replacing windows, the scale, style and materials used should match those of the original building. This is especially important in older properties.
25. In new development, the size of windows should be in correct proportion to the facade, preferably in "portrait" configuration and with frames predominantly white in colour.
26. To harmonise with existing buildings the use of traditional red brick is preferred. Distinctive features such as decorative brick patterning are also encouraged.
27. Doors which are appropriately designed for the age and style of the property are encouraged.
28. Developers/householders should carefully consider the visual impact of the location and design of garages and other ancillary garden buildings on their surroundings and the wider street scene.
29. Property boundaries should be rural in character and content. Traditional styles of brickwork and hedging are preferable (see Appendix 2 for list of suggested suitable domestic garden hedgerow species). Emphasis should be given to achieving a more cohesive effect, especially where boundaries are viewed from the road.
30. Driveways are characterised by loose gravel materials. Future developments should try to match these, using bound natural materials.
31. When considering new footways, the character of the narrow winding lanes which predominate through much of the parish should be carefully considered. The materials also need to be appropriate to the rural setting, for example, granite setts are used extensively as curbing.
32. When new signs, of any type, are introduced, existing poles should be used where possible. Where appropriate every opportunity should be taken to amalgamate or reduce the number of signs.
33. Street furniture should be sited with sensitivity and grouped to reduce visual clutter.
34. Street lighting is considered to be an urbanising feature in this rural location and its necessity should be very carefully considered before inclusion in any new development. In areas where street lighting is essential, the use of cut off lanterns would be appropriate.
35. Any industrial or security lighting, particularly along the valley bottom and the A4, should be carefully designed and sited so as not to increase light pollution.
36. In the interests of conserving and enhancing the rural nature of Beenham, all new cabling should, where possible, be laid underground.
37. Where appropriate, new development should incorporate and signpost rights of way which link into the existing network of public rights of way.

Patterns of development in the parish

Historical background
The earliest records for the parish show the grant of the Church and the Manor of Beenham (Bena’s Hamme or Bena’s Homestead or Manor) by Henry I to the Abbot and monks of Reading Abbey. After the dissolution of the monasteries by
Henry VIII in 1539, records relate only to the larger farms in the area. Many of the older listed buildings in the area, for example Park Farm, White Cottage, Oakwood (formerly Fodderhouse) Farm and Malthouse Farm and those on Beenham Hill were estate farms and workers’ cottages belonging to an expanding Beenham Estate. The Beenham Estate and its farms preserved the area from industrial development taking place, unlike the situation in the valley below, where the development of the coaching road (A4), the construction of the Kennet and Avon Canal (1716) and the spread of the railways (18301860) are evident. The population of Beenham in 1801 was only 381, falling even lower after the Inclosure Award of 1811 and only increasing to 508 in 1901. The sale and break up of much of the Beenham Estate in 1914 meant
that land which had previously been protected became available for development. Most significant house building happened after World War II.

Industrial development within the parish has been concentrated along the valley floor and the A4 road. For instance, since World War II, the sand and gravel deposits have given rise to the development of gravel extraction works
and an associated roof tile plant. Marley is one of the largest European manufacturers of roof tiles with extensive storage yards which have security lighting 24 hours a day. Grundon, a large, privately-owned waste disposal and recycling company, has a large site adjacent to the A4 which is currently being used for landfill. Methane from the filled pits is partly used to fire furnaces at Marley and some is converted to electricity and fed into the National Grid. There
has been sporadic mixed development along the A4, and there is a small industrial area (Grange Lane). The industrial and commercial development along the A4 is quite separate from the village settlement some 100m up on the ridge above.

Farming in the form of livestock rearing on the upland areas and arable in the valley still predominates. Recent national changes in farming policy have led some farms to cease dairying; Oakwood and Malthouse Farms have become horse riding and horse breeding establishments respectively. Horse grazing is an increasing use for upland pastures. Nevertheless Beenham still has working farms which form a critical part of the surrounding landscape.

The population of Beenham parish (estimated in 2001 by West Berkshire District Council to be about 982) is mainly concentrated in the village of Beenham. The Village Envelope (see page 10) as defined in the Local Plan, has acted as a constraint on housing development within it. It is possible the Village Envelope may be revised as part of the Local Plan review in 2006. The population total does include some 200 people living in new houses at Aldermaston Wharf. These houses were built in 1998 on a brownfield site vacated by the Sterling Greengate cable factory. This site includes some
affordable housing. The Aldermaston Wharf development is geographically separate from the main bulk of the village and despite being in Beenham parish forms part of a small settlement which straddles three parishes Beenham,
Aldermaston and Padworth, at the canal crossing. This small canal-side community has an identity of its own which may benefit from a separate study.

Social and recreational
In common with many English parishes, changing social and economic patterns have impacted on Beenham, notably with the loss of some village facilities such as one of the pubs and the village shop. Nevertheless, village and parish activities are strongly supported in Beenham by long established villagers and newcomers alike.

There are at least a dozen activities listed in the monthly church magazine which, together with the Parish Council Newsletter, is a reliable source of information for all parishioners both in the village and at Aldermaston Wharf.

St Mary’s Church organises activities such as the annual carol and Christingle services, a Harvest Supper and Rogation Day walk. It also has a very successful team of bell ringers.

The Victory Hall (built in the 1920’s) hosts dances, functions and a monthly market for local produce, plants and crafts.

The school houses the community room and school/community hall under the same roof. They are used for children’s and after-school activities and sports clubs, such as badminton.

An active Parent, Teacher and Friends Association raises funds for extra school equipment by running fairs, quizzes, auctions and fetes.

In recent years very successful village events have been organised on the recreation ground including a V.E. Day fair in which 1940’s dress featured, a millennium fancy dress parade, fair and bonfire and annual summer concerts by the revived Beenham Band, a band which is growing in popularity.

There are also adult education classes organised by Newbury College and West Berkshire Council held weekly in the Victory Hall.

A group of villagers formed the Beenham Investment Group (BIG) to buy the lease of Greyfield Wood in order to preserve it as a village amenity. Shares in the company have been bought by villagers.

Beenham village

The settlement area - its relationship with the surrounding landscape
The larger settlements in this area "favour ridge-top locations, having developed along lanes which exploit the natural grain of the landscape". The village of Beenham follows this pattern. Although it is situated at the top of a ridge of hills
it does not feel exposed; in the adjacent farmed landscape, the amount of planting-woods, trees and hedgerows, contribute to its sense of containment. Originally the village began as three separate settlements:

* at the eastern end, around the former Stocks public house

* another, just over half a mile away at the western end, clustered near The Six Bells public house

* the group of old houses on Beenham Hill

A mix of Victorian houses, twentieth century houses and bungalows and a small council estate, built in the early 1950’s, have linked the older eastern and western settlements together (see page 10). The primary school, built in 1985,
and the Victory Hall/ Beenham Club buildings form the focal centre mid way between the two ends of the village. Much of the village is only one house deep; many houses back directly onto fields.

The parish church of St Mary’s, (part eighteenth century and part Victorian), the adjacent Church Cottage (Grade II listed) and the site of the old village school, now occupied by two houses, are slightly separate from the village,
down Church Lane. From the church and the burial ground there are striking views across the Kennet valley. The white facade of Beenham House, set below the ridge, is one of the few large buildings visible from the A4.

Shape and form
Travelling through the village the route closes and opens. The Warings, a small recent development of affordable housing promoted by the parish council and the Rural Housing Trust, is one of the first areas seen when reaching the top of
Beenham Hill. In places the village is almost sub-urban: for example Stoneyfield and Back Lane where semi-detached houses which are not very sympathetic to the local vernacular were built in the 1950’s. They were built to a standard design and layout that failed to reflect the complexities of the older houses of the village which are much closer to the road.

The road narrows along the single track section of Back Lane, by Butlers Farm, with high hedges on both sides. It opens again just before the school with wide grass verges. This linear village has a number of focal points along its length;
the agglomeration of the school, Victory Hall and Beenham Club at the junction of Picklepythe Lane with Church Lane is one of them. The village closes again, past the school, a relatively narrow road with bungalows on one side and houses on the other. The road twists through the village with a number of sharp blind bends which prevent distant views. New short vistas open up at each turn.

In general, the more recent developments in the village, such as The Strouds, have introduced regularity and depth, which was not previously present in the irregularity of the older houses. Modern estate roads, albeit quite short, and cul-
de-sacs, have altered the simple one-building-deep characteristic of the older parts of the village.

The Recreation Ground, the second focal point, is the main public open space and focus for the village. Edged by listed lime trees, ‘the rec’, as it is known, has children’s play equipment, a small football pitch for informal games, a
basketball net and two picnic tables. The rec is an important open space used for band concerts, community events and informal play. Views from the road, which runs along beside it at a slightly lower level, are important. This significant open space represents an historic ‘green lung’ in the heart of the village.

Beyond the rec the village closes in again. The older triangle of houses in Clay Lane is closely packed together creating an interesting complexity of planes and spaces. The old houses and cottages which are loosely centred around The Six
Bells public house front almost directly onto the road with very small gardens. Beyond a short single track section by The Six Bells the road dips and curves down to the River Bourne, this narrow section marks a pinch point, a sense of
closure which indicates the end of the old village. There are further houses beyond but this is where the village effectively stops. Due to recent hedgerow removal views have been created from this corner across the countryside. Local
opinion is divided, some liked the sense of containment of entering the village from Bucklebury through a tunnel of trees and hedges, and others appreciate the new views.

Building design
A detailed analysis of randomly selected photographs of houses taken during the workshop (20th Jan 2001) was undertaken. Objective results obtained from the analysis have proved to be useful in describing the unique character of

Any new development (including extensions and alterations) should take its cue from what already exists; however, the opportunity to be creative and innovative is available too. Opportunities should be taken to learn from the past; what
designs work in a particular situation and what does not. The VDS is not meant to be prescriptive but aims to provide guidelines which can act as a springboard to creative design.

The incorporation of energy efficient measures in the design and construction phase is particularly welcome; as is the integration of sustainability into the whole development process.

Most houses, and consequently building lines, are sited close to the road, (65% within 0-10m). Older houses are closer to the road with smaller or non-existent front gardens and newer ones tend to be set further back with larger front

The alignment of houses, relative to the road, is predominantly parallel (72%), and facing onto the road. Many houses back onto fields and/or woodland which contribute to the perceived linear nature of the village.

In the main houses are of two storeys. However, there are a significant number of bungalows (11%), which tend to be grouped in particular areas (e.g. Church View, The Strouds and Picklepythe Lane), leading to distinct zones.

The prevailing roofing material is red tile (89%), with predominantly red clay tile (a warm orange-red) on older houses, and concrete-compound tiles (reddish brown or dark brown) on newer houses. Some slate and asbestos tile is to be found, a few thatched roofs occur, and two houses, unusually, have cedar shingles.

Roof design varies with 69% gabled and 31% hip-roofed. Again, there is a tendency for these features to be grouped. Some new houses have successfully incorporated these features into their design.

A significant number of properties have had roof conversions, which have resulted in full or partial dormer windows (42%), and roof lights (9%).

Chimneys are also a characteristic of Beenham, 93% of them are potted and many exhibit some degree of distinctive corbelling. There are fine examples in particular on some of the older houses. Good brick detailing would mark new
houses as being particular to Beenham.

Gutters, fascias and bargeboards
Old cast-iron guttering is being replaced by plastic. On newer houses there tends to be a wide variety of styles, colours and profiles. Black guttering predominates conferring a less obtrusive appearance allowing other structural
features to be more prominent. 10% of gutters are white; but these can be prone to visible algal and grime staining.

Prominent fascia boards are found on over a third of properties, and bargeboards on 14%. Of all of these, 55% are white and 30% are brown. Most are plain in character, but there are a few which are decoratively styled.

Older houses have timber window frames. As alternatives became available, some houses have been fitted with steel frames, then subsequently aluminium frames, and finally uPVC frames. Many newer properties started with timber
frames but a large proportion of householders have opted for uPVC ones. Overall, nearly 66% of all window frames are white; brown and black account for the remaining third.

While 75% of windows are rectangular and of portrait configuration, over half of house walls are glazed to only 1/5 of the total wall area. Large picture windows were popular for a while but concerns about security and insulation are bringing a return to smaller windows.

Wall materials
The visible surface of most houses in Beenham is brick (64%). The predominant brick colour is a warm red (over 75%), with which many of the older cottages have been built. More recent housing has introduced other colours, but lately greater efforts have been made to replicate local brick colour, with a degree of success e.g. The Warings. Over 33% of properties have some decorative brick patterning (e.g. the Old Shop and Hillside), not only demonstrating the bricklayer’s craft but also adding distinctive character to the village. Some of the cottages have been rendered (28%), and then painted; over 75% of these are white or cream in colour, while a few of the older buildings are of part-timber construction.

Doors and porches
Most front doors have some form of weather protection with either a canopy (51%), or a porch (19%). Most doors appear to be of timber (70%), but, as with window frames, replacement doors are increasingly made of uPVC; security and durability are probably the main considerations bringing about this change. A large proportion (66%) of doors have some element of glass relief in them. As with windows, doors are critical features in the overall design and outward appearance of the house.

Boundary fences and hedges
Most properties have clear boundaries, although they do take a variety of forms:

* fences (42%)

* hedges (28%)

* walls (12%)

A wide range of materials is used in each category. However, there is a lack of uniformity or cohesion in the substance and style of boundaries which results in a jumbled patchwork, particularly around the older properties. The Strouds
and The Warings tend to have open-plan gardens with boundary materials appropriate to the age and style of the properties. Hedges are not always practical due to their maintenance implications (see Appendix 2 for list of suggested suitable domestic garden hedgerow species). Well designed walls and fences can be attractive.

The overall impression from passing through Beenham is one of greenness. This is achieved through the presence of field hedgerows and remnants of them in property boundaries. There is a fair level of domestic planting too, many
gardens having trees in them (nearly 50%) and this is combined with a predominance of evergreen hedges (59%). Rural character is enhanced by holly, yew and privet plantings, affording all-year screening and privacy.

Beenham has a number of trees which are locally significant. Some of them have Tree Preservation Orders on them (see Appendix 3), others, however, such as the old orchard on Beenham Hill and the holly tree near St Mary’s
Farmhouse, have no statutory designation but are viewed with affection by residents.

Gravel driveways predominate (nearly 66%), in strong preference to tarmacadam and brick/concrete ones (just over 33%).

The street scene

Footways are scarce in the parish of Beenham due to its rural nature. In the village, fewer than 20% of properties have a footway adjacent to the boundary and only about 20% have a grassed verge. In recent years a footway was put inside the trees along the edge of the rec to make it safer for pedestrians. However, there is a general reluctance to introduce further footways except where necessary for the safety of pedestrians.

Street furniture
A variety of traffic signs are located along the road verges throughout the parish; there are also rural footpath signs. There are "Beenham" village name signs at either end of the built up area and large directional signs on the A4.

Outside the Victory Hall is the only public telephone in the parish, housed in a traditional red phone box. There are three bus shelters in the parish; one is situated in Stoneyfield, (an urban glass design), the others are on the A4 and
are of brick construction. There are a number of litter bins and benches strategically placed throughout the village.

Street lighting
Street lighting has been installed only in The Strouds, part of Church View and the new Aldermaston Wharf development. A poll undertaken on behalf of the parish council over 10 years ago showed a majority of people in favour of restricting any further introduction of street lighting as it was felt to be inappropriately suburban. The A4 is illuminated, as is the Marley site which operates a continuous production cycle. These lights are visible from the village.

Most electrical and telephone distribution throughout the parish is by overhead lines. The possibility of changing this is slight due to the high cost. Modern housing estates such as Aldermaston Wharf and The Strouds have power supplies which have been placed undergound and wirescape does not exist; this is preferable. Mount Pleasant, in particular, would benefit from the removal of unsightly wires and poles.

The main metalled road up to Beenham village from the A4 runs across the Kennet Valley floor and past Field Barn Farm. There are striking views towards the wooded ridge, with distant views of Beenham House and its parkland. The road, called Beenham Hill at this point, climbs steeply past eighteenth century houses and older thatched cottages to a junction with Webbs Lane, which runs east to Admoor Lane. The main road continues west along the hill ridge through
the village, changing its name from Back Lane to Picklepythe Lane. It then becomes The Green and finally Bourne Lane, before dropping down to the River Bourne which marks the parish boundary. The road continues north up to The Avenue, Bucklebury. Admoor Lane leaves the A4 and forms one side (eastern) of the parish, linking through to Bradfield. The other two north-south lanes are unmetalled for part or all of their length. Church Lane, which eventually turns into Grange Lane, is classed as a bridleway (although it is actually metalled) and Clay Lane is a by-way. This results in a degree of isolation for Beenham which helps to maintain the ‘village’ feel.

Rights of way
Beenham has a network of bridleways and rural footpaths which evolved when walking was virtually the only means of travel. Most bridleways are along old estate roads. Footpaths are now used mainly for recreation, although some like
Church Path and the path to Douai Abbey are used as short cuts to avoid roads. Some footpaths have a hard surface (see page 18).

Car parking
On-street parking is perceived as a problem by some residents, particularly outside the normal working day and in particular parts of the village. However, it can also have the effect of reducing traffic speed which many residents
welcome. There are three privately-owned car parks which belong to The Six Bells public house, the school, and the Victory Hall/Beenham Club; the hall/club car park conveniently adjoins the school and is used at busy times of
the school day. The school playground is also used for parking when necessary.

Proximity to the A4 and M4 and to main line rail services has meant that villagers commute to London, Swindon and further afield. However, many villagers are employed locally in service and manual industries and travel by car each day to Newbury, Reading and Thatcham. This traffic puts pressure on the existing road network, particularly at peak hours and at the time of the schoolrun. Most families have their own car(s) and use supermarkets at Calcot and Thatcham, while older villagers tend to use the weekly buses to Reading and Newbury on market days. Support for the shop and post office dwindled to a point where neither was viable. The nearest post offices and shops are two miles away or more at Chapel Row, Southend Bradfield and Upper Bucklebury. Doctors’ surgeries serving Beenham are at Chapel Row, Bradfield and Theale.

Minor roads through the village are narrow and were originally built for horsedrawn traffic. They have been widened where verge width would allow. The roads have to accommodate wide commercial and farm vehicles and also horse
boxes, particularly during the working day. Significant numbers of horse riders use village roads to connect between bridleways. Roads within the village are mostly subject to a 30 mph speed limit.

Cycle lanes do not exist in the parish. However, cycling occurs as a recreational activity and (if there were better provision) potentially, as a method of commuting or connecting to the railway stations at Theale and Aldermaston.

Public transport
Although recently improved, bus services serving the parish and in particular, Beenham village, are limited in their frequency and some are circuitous in their routes. Beenham currently has a Monday to Saturday day-time and early
evening bus service from Newbury to Calcot. It connects with the rail service at Theale and other bus and coach services at Calcot. There is also a bus service from Beenham to Reading on Wednesdays and a Thursday market day bus to Newbury where volunteers help passengers who are aged or infirm to board (the "Help Aboard" service). This bus travels by a roundabout route which is different from the daily Newbury bus route and serves several villages to the north west of Beenham.

Great Western Trains operate services from Aldermaston Station, Theale and Pangbourne giving connections to the north, London and the west. There does not appear to be much co-ordination between train and local bus services.

A volunteer car service, supported by Beenham Parish Council, is available for parishioners without transport, to carry them to and from the doctors surgery at Chapel Row. It also collects and delivers medicines and prescriptions.

The nearest taxi services are in Theale and Thatcham.

Concluding remarks

Beenham is a mixed parish incorporating industrial and commercial development, concentrated along the A4 in the Kennet Valley and housing development mainly in the village on the ridge to the north side of the valley. The village has evolved over the centuries and exhibits a wide mixture of housing types. The village itself will never be of the‘chocolate box’ variety. Nevertheless, the aim of this VDS is to retain what is special about it and to enhance that particular quality through any new development which may occur. Innovative design solutions are welcomed where they respect the local design vernacular and materials. Beenham will continue to grow and evolve, and any improvements to its outward
appearance which result from this VDS will be very welcome.

We would like to thank the following for their help and support:
Paula Amorelli, West Berkshire Council, Planning & Transport Strategy
Beenham Parish Council, village organisations and parishioners
Community Council for Berkshire
English Nature
Sally Wallington, Kennet Valley Countryside Project
Tom Larkcom
Trevor Halsall
George Dunford
Tony Knight: line drawings
Ken White, Allan Konya and Roger Palmer: photos
Ken White: maps
Children of Beenham School: drawings

VDS Steering Group:
Christine Lalley
Allan Konya
Ken White
Katrina Alderton
Ormonde Hamblin
Ros Witcomb top

© June 2004

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