Thames Heritage Boat Museum

 Beale Park near Pangbourne

The Appeal Hearing is now closed

The appeal hearing held on the 15th April was attended by about 30 people, so we are now waiting the inspectors decision; this can take up to seven weeks. Comments and feedback from those who attended the hearing were that the council's case seemed very weak. We've left all the website appeal details on view below for anyone who wants to review this.

See latest NEWS      all appeal case submissions are now accessible

Recent email exchange between local MP, Richard Benyon and Senior Planning Officer, David Pearson

Planning appeal West Berkshire Council  Application Reference 13/00575/OUT

  • The planning application case officer report for refusal here

  • The West Berkshire Council planning application rejection notice here

  • Our Appeal statement - Appeal Statement  this link takes you to the bottom of this page

  • The West Berkshire Council Appeal - Appeal Statement  this link takes you to the bottom of this page

Before going for an appeal we contacted West Berkshire Council about the possibility of re-submitting the application with all the extra information required by the case officer, (as suggested in the Government Planning portal).

Despite being able to answer all concerns raised by the case officer, the option of resubmitting this Outline Application was refused.


We have only turned to an appeal as a last resort.


Description of development:

Thames Heritage Boat Museum -  Matters seeking approval: Access and Layout

Application reference:


Appellant’s name:

The Child Beale Trust

Appeal Reference:


Appeal start date:

2nd December 2013


The case for appeal.


The Officer’s Summary Report and subsequent Decision Notice for the application contains inaccuracies, also there are several planning consideration omissions. These led to an incorrect assessment of this application. Detailed as follows

The Outline Planning application is for a Thames Heritage Boat Museum located at Beale Park near Pangbourne.  The application was submitted 14th March 2013 by Mursell & Company, agents for the applicant The Child Beale Trust. Sponsors for the project are The Consuta Trust a registered charity.

This was an Outline application for Access and Layout; the reserved matters were Landscaping, Scale and Appearance. The purpose of the application was to see whether the proposed Museum would be acceptable in principle before embarking on the cost and detailed work needed for a full application.


1.0       Outline Applications – regarding information required and LPA procedures for obtaining additional details.

Government DCLG Circular 01/2006 section 2 paragraph 48 explains the purpose and requirements for outline applications, and paragraph 54 and 55 indicates when and how a LPA can request additional details if required. WBC website provides similar guidance.

The Circular states that for an outline application the LPA can within one month, beginning with the receipt of the application, notify the applicant that they are unable to determine it unless further details are submitted, specifying the further details they require.

The Refused decision 21st May claims there was absence or insufficient information provided for the application. The application was validated and the case officer made no requests for additional details under provisions of the GDPO.  (Em7)


2.0       Officers stated they were unable to seek further information.

Five weeks after submission, the first email from the case officer 17th April (em1) starts:–  “I have now had an opportunity to review the above application and I write to provide initial comments on the scheme….” then concludes:- “I am unable to seek further information under this application”.

Then 25th April email (em3)Please note I cannot accept any further information in relation to this scheme”.

Attempts to provide further information:-

·        Offers were made to provide additional details using a 1:200 scale model of the site to the case officer via Mr. Law the ward councillor. See email em4 sent to Mr. Law 26th April

·        Email (Em9). A request was made to WBC officer(s) to provide a one month time extension in order to obtain additional details such as Biodiversity and Tree surveys; this request was refused – no reasons given.


The local ward councillor and planning committee chairman were informed by officer(s) that they could not call-in the application to committee because there was insufficient information, email (Em2) .


3.0       The Museum Location and site planning history issues

Relevant planning history covering the area:-

2001    00/01195/FUL  Navigation Cut to the Thames. Approved with limiting conditions for mooring on the lake, and use of the cut.

2003    Detailed Pre planning Advice reports from WBC officers for a Heritage Museum by the lake.

2007    07/01717/FUL  Floating Boathouse on the lake. Pre planning advice from two planning officers was positive, Application rejected; Appeal dismissed.

2008    08/02391/FUL  Adventure Dolphin temporary Portacabins and storage containers by the lake.  Approved followed by a subsequent application 09/00507/FUL  for uncontrolled use of the lake and access to the Thames; also approved.

These indicate that the main planning concern would be harm to the open and largely undeveloped appearance of the site located in the NWDAONB, as seen from the lake, the Thames and the Thames Path.

The proposed museum would not however be in an open prominent area, but would be discretely positioned along an existing visitor boundary fence near the present build form of the park (the pavilion), and not on the lake. The building would be hidden by trees from all views around the lake, the Thames Path and the River Thames; so would not affect the undeveloped appearance of the open landscape. Photos in the D&A statement.  (Additional photo 1 - photo 2 - photo 3 - photo 4)

The officer’s report which states “…a building in this position on the edge of the lake….” is inaccurate; because it leads to the report conclusion “ … the harmful visual impact of a structure on the wider landscape and the AONB ….” . The museum will not be on the edge of the lake and there is no evidence to substantiate the officer’s opinion regarding a harmful visual impact. These conclusions are contrary to the photos provided with the application (photo 1 - photo 2 - photo3 - photo 4).

Note also consultation responses about effect on the AONB:-

·        Several representation letters say that the museum would not have a harmful visual impact on the landscape or AONB.  

·        Natural England, (Doc12) “ Natural England has no comments to make on this proposal as we do not believe that this development is likely to impact on the purposes of designation of North Wessex Downs AONB.

·        Mr Lord of NWDAONB (Doc13). “The North Wessex Downs AONB accept in principle the potential to locate this use at Beale Park.”

·        The screening letter from WBC Development Control Manager (Doc11) states with reference to “the EIA Regulations and DETR Circular 02/99 that the potential impacts are not considered to be of significance in terms of the Regulations and Circular”.

A subsequent BS5837 survey shows that many trees around the site are more than 10 meters high (see Doc2). The museum building would be less than 7m to the top of the pitch roof, so the building will be completely screened from all views around the lake. This screening can be seen on the 1:200 scale model of the site we wanted to display with the application.

A 2008 application for temporary portacabins 08/02391/FUL was assessed by the same case officer who for this report stated that the portacabins would only be visible from within the car park. The discrepancy in this earlier assessment about visibility compared with the present application indicates a misreading of plans submitted or inconsistent assessments. See photo 3 - photo 4 showing portacabins, Doc7  is the case officer report for 08/02391/FUL


4.0       Consultation and public response

There were over 50 letters of support, ranging from individuals (many local residents including local MP Richard Benyon); the Director of National Historic Ships, the Curator of the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, and over ten support letters from various societies representing around 5000 members (Doc15 - River Thames Society magazine). The Basildon Parish Council gave unanimous support. There were no public objections.


Only three consultees made objections (the EA, the WBC Tree Officer, and the WBC Ecology Officer). All these objections were on the reserved matters; the EA indicated in their response how their objections could be overcome. Because of a late notification to the EA we were unable to respond within the application timescales. The EA did confirm on 13th May that they were not objecting to the principle of the development provided their objection concerns were overcome (on reserved matters). (See email em5)


5.0       Important factors about the application.

·        The museum is wholly for public benefit, not for private or commercial gain and is to be an accredited museum of national importance preserving many unique artefacts of Local and National River Thames Heritage. Conservation and display of cultural heritage assets of this part of West Berkshire should be considered a material planning consideration.

·        The three historic craft mentioned in the D&A statement are marine equivalents of grade 1 listed buildings (details in Doc1). The conservation of these historic craft should be accepted as material planning considerations. The inspector for the appeal 07/01717/FUL stated that conservation of Consuta was a material planning consideration.


6.0       Planning considerations not included in the case officer’s report.


The Refusal notice states a failure to comply with the NPPF and several WBC policies. There are some material considerations which were not fully taken into account:-

·        The museum objectives are to conserve local and national heritage assets.

·        The future of the three historic boat exhibits:- Consuta, Donola and Cygnet would remain uncertain and at risk without the museum. (Doc 1)

·        There is significant public support representing several thousand people.

·        The positive response from the Basildon Parish Council has been disregarded.

·        There are no other locations which are suitable or available for this museum which needs to be located by the River Thames where there is established public access.


The following policies were cited in the refusal notice.


7.0       National Planning Policy Framework 2012. (NPPF)


·        NPPF “Core planning principles” on sustainable development - paras 17 2nd bullet states:-  “…not simply be about scrutiny, but instead be a creative exercise in finding ways to enhance and improve the places in which people live their lives”; and 10th bullet “…conserve heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of this and future generations”.  The proposed museum is intended to meet these aims.

·        NPPF para 187 provides advice on Decision Taking which states. “LPAs’ should look for solutions rather than problems, ….

·        The Ministerial foreword for the NPPF policy concludes “we are allowing people and communities back into planning” and from the previous paragraph “… planning policy itself has become so elaborate and forbidding – the preserve of specialists, rather than people in communities..”

·        Relevant NPPF policies identify that sustainable development should:-

Section 3 (28):       Support a prosperous rural economy.

Section 11 (118):   Conserve Biodiversity, except when in the public interest, mitigation or compensation can be accepted as an option.

Section 12:            Conserve and enhance the historic environment.

The proposed museum is for public benefit and would be based at a large rural park, so we submit conforms to these NPPF principles.


8.0       CS14 – Design Principles. This policy requires new development to make a positive contribution to the quality of life in West Berkshire; the following have been overlooked in the assessment regarding this policy:-


·        The museum is to be an accredited museum of local and national importance and will contribute to the quality of life in the community.

·        The three historic craft mentioned in the D&A statement are recognised by national bodies as of National Historical importance and are also part of Berkshire’s Thames heritage

·        The positioning of the museum has been carefully chosen to sit discretely in a well screened position of the park so will have minimal impact on the AONB.

·        The museum will be an additional attraction at Beale Park using the existing provisions here for access by all modes of transport.


These all conform to the principles of CS14. Natural England have suggested that a subsequent Landscaping scheme should be aimed at improving biodiversity. Note the two site reports indicate very poor quality existing biodiversity. (Doc 2 - Doc 3 - Doc 4 - Doc 5).  ‘Appearance’, ‘Scale’, and ‘Landscaping’ are reserved matters.


9.0       Saved policy RL5A

·        The museum is not by the river but over 100m away, and will not affect boat mooring or boat traffic on the Thames.

·        The Museum will be hidden from views across the lake from the North, East, and West, it will not harm the landscape character of the river nor inhibit public access to the river, and will not be seen from the Thames Path.

·        The museum will not change the use of the lake which is the navigation access  to the Thames.

Introductory wording of policy RL5A states The River Thames is an asset of national significance in West Berkshire.” The proposed museum exhibiting details of River Thames history is intended to add significantly to the public’s appreciation of this national asset.


10.0     The Basildon Village Design Statement.

·        West Berkshire Council policy introduction:- “Village Design Statements are about giving local people a say in the future of their own community”. The Basildon Village Design Statement places emphasis on tourism and leisure in the community.

·        The officer’s report:- “…a building within this position on the edge of the lake would have a detrimental impact on the character and appearance of the park and the wide countryside and AONB” this as explained is mistaken. A scale model was displayed at the Basildon Parish Council meeting and councillors were in agreement that the museum would not harm views across Beale Park from any direction, but would be a welcome addition to the park amenities, and an asset for the local community. All parish councillors voted in favour and wished us luck with the application.  We suggest that parish councillors will know more about their own area than WBC Officers, therefore this parish council submission, representing local people, should not be ignored without proper explanation. photo 1 - photo 2 - photo 3 - photo 4 showing location.

·        Many representation letters expressed similar views to those made at the Parish Council meeting.

·        In discussions two planning committee members confirmed that they were supportive of the general principle of development at Beale Park.

·        There were no objections from the 50 public application submissions.

The refusal by citing that the application is contrary to the Basildon VDS policy is mistaken, and does not address the unanimous support from the local community and the Basildon Parish Council. Key principles of VDS’s are to involve local communities in planning sustainable development.  


11.0     West Berkshire ADPP5 policy


Extracts from this policy (Economy):-

o       Small, local businesses will be supported, encouraged and protected within the AONB providing local job opportunities and maintaining the rural economy.

o       Positive management of the AONB will take place through partnership working to ensure its continuation as a location for leisure and green tourism.

·        Beale Park is a long standing rural employer and contributes significantly to the community leisure and tourism of West Berkshire. A Heritage Museum to supplement existing features at Beale Park meets these policy objectives.

·        Consultee and representation letters accept that the proposed Museum will not have any detrimental impact on this part of an AONB where Beale Park is already an established leisure and tourism attraction.

The proposal complies with the purposes of WBC policy CS10 (Rural Economy).


12.0     Lack of information about other works needed for boat access to the museum from the river.

Our answer during the consultation was ignored (Doc14). There are three historic boats mentioned in the D&A statement; two are destined to be static dry land exhibits. Only Consuta needs to move between the Museum and the Thames, and can already do this, (See photo 5). No additional work is needed outside the application site to permit river access to the museum by Consuta.


13.0     Failure to comply with para 118 of the NPPF  and policy CS17

These policies are about conserving and enhancing biodiversity and indicate when it is acceptable for mitigation or compensation if the benefits of the development are considered to outweigh any harmful biodiversity impacts.


·        English Nature have pointed out that the site is not a SSSI, a SACs, nor an Ancient Woodland, and have suggested this development could be used to improve the biodiversity on the site.

·        A subsequent BS5837 survey of the location shows that the trees are common varieties mostly in fair to poor condition with none in category A. (A copy of this report is provided Doc 2 - doc 3 - doc 4). The building itself would require the removal of 7 Cat B and 8 Cat C trees, these losses would be compensated through an approved replanting scheme with more trees planted than removed.  

·        A subsequent extended phase 1 habitat survey report concludes that the proposed development presents a low probability of harm to protected species or habitats, and recommends that no further surveys are necessary. A copy of this report is provided Doc 5).

·         These two reports would have been obtained if the case officer had made the request within application procedural timescales and had not placed an early deadline for accepting material from ourselves. The reports clearly show that the fauna and flora of the site are of low nature conservation value. There can be no significant harm to the biodiversity resulting from this development .

·         There are no alternative sites for this museum (details in application D&A statement) and there will be social, economic and historical benefits of regional and national importance.


The benefits of this development have been underestimated; subsequent reports show that the biodiversity on this site, although designated as a Local Wildlife Site (Doc10), is poor. A landscaping scheme (reserved matter) will aim to provide net gains to the biodiversity, a key principle of the NPPF para 118 and CS17.


14.0     Failure to comply with CS16 (Flooding)


The WBC Drainage department did accept our suggestion about offsetting possible lost volume within the flood plain from a previous storage gain in 2001.


The first response from the EA was not provided until 9th  May. The EA mention that they were only notified of the application on the 19th of April. Their response raised objections but suggested how these could be overcome. Because of this late notification by WBC we were unable to provide further details within the procedural timescales. The EA did however state in an email 13th May (em5), that they were not against the principle of development provided the building was designed to mitigate the lost flood storage volume. The Case Officer did not accept this updated statement from EA; this is contrary to the principles of the NPPF, paragraph 187.

We are presently in discussion with the EA about details associated with the design to provide complete level for level flood plain compensation to ensure that there would be no losses of flood storage volume.  Acceptable building details would be submitted for approval as part of a future reserved matters application for Landscape, Appearance and Scale.


15.0     CS19 (Historic Environment and Landscape Character)


Aims to conserve and enhance the natural, cultural, and functional components of the area character in a holistic way.

·        The 350 acre Beale Park site is an attractive development in an AONB which is maintained for public enjoyment, the park has several public paths outside the main visitor pay to enter area. The lake itself is a flooded gravel pit from the 1970’s. The museum building would be discretely located at the edge of a LWS (Doc10) on the existing visitor boundary fence (electrified) and will not have a detrimental impact on the character of the area. (photo 1 - photo 2 - photo 3 - photo 4)

·        Much of the River Thames cultural heritage has been lost through numerous housing developments during the last 70 years. All local historic boatyards in Streatley, Goring and Pangbourne have gone, only remembered now by a Blue Plaque in Goring; and names like “Boathouse Surgery” on a building at Pangbourne; and the literature of J.K.Jerome “Three men in a boat”.

The proposed museum aims to conserve and enhance remaining parts of this local cultural heritage at a river location where the public will be able to see and learn about Berkshire’s river and boating history.


16.0     Conclusions

We were disappointed that the WBC planners had decided to reject this application at an early stage.

The officer’s summary report for the application has inaccuracies, and several planning consideration omissions. Unfortunately there is no provision for the applicant to correct any errors in a case officer’s report before the decision is taken by delegated powers. We believe that the decision should not have been made by delegated powers for the following reasons:-

·        Government advice on the use of delegated planning powers suggests that where there are major conflicting views or significant public interest, applications should be referred to the planning committee for a decision.

·        The WBC website states “Many applications, because they are small in scale, can be decided by planning officers without having to go to a Committee.” This advice however is not consistent with a statement in the refusal notice section 1 “….a large building in this prominent position…”

·        WBC changed their published rules about delegated decision protocol at a late stage (30th April, details in Doc 6) this prevented the application being referred to the planning committee by rules which had been displayed on the WBC website since before 2008. The change was instigated when we asked WBC to confirm that the application would be taken to committee under procedures (Em8).

·        WBC officers refusal to accept additional information from ourselves is contrary to the decision making principles of NPPF.

Some of the WBC objections are assumptions on reserved matters of this outline application, these could have been resolved by requests under the provisions of the GDPO. The Outline Application was submitted to see if the principle of a museum at Beale Park was acceptable. Government policy advises this is the purpose of outline applications.

The unanimous public response was yes; with no objectors. If officers were unable to accept these public consultation results, the application should have been passed to the planning committee. Planning Control policies are intended for public benefit; and the rejection does not meet the objectives of the WBC’s Statement of Community Involvement (SCI)

The two main objections were about insufficient details provided and about the visual impact on a sensitive area of AONB. Other objections were on details of biodiversity and building design provisions in the flood plain, which were reserved matters of landscape, scale and appearance. We believe these can be resolved and should be considered at a subsequent planning application for the reserved matters.

The planning history of this site provides useful guidance about visual impact considerations:-

·        In 2003 a pre-application advice assessment was made with the WBC Principle Planning Officer (Lisa Smith) and other WBC officers. This was for a much larger museum in a different position on the edge of the lake, which identified the main issues as:- the effect on the landscape and visual impact on the character and appearance of the NWDAONB, the River Thames, the Thames Path and other public rights of way. This consultation provided useful guidance on the likely planning concerns for our application.

·        2007 The planning application and subsequent appeal 07/01717/FUL also showed that a floating boathouse on the open lake was not acceptable because it would be seen as an alien feature on the open lake.

·        2008 The case officer assessment report for an application 08/02391/FUL for temporary portacabins in a location near the lake and park buildings stated that:- “….This area is only visible from within the car park”, which indicates that provided the open views over the lake are not compromised then development in this “sensitive” area could be acceptable. (See doc7 case officer report)

The proposed Museum, illustrated by our scale model, will be hidden from all views around the lake unlike that of the temporary portacabins approved in 2008. (photo 3 - photo 4).

This proposal is a unique opportunity to establish a Museum with historic artefacts of national importance covering the social period when mechanical power was first being introduced for the propulsion of boats. Prior to mechanical power, the only way of moving boats was by sail or muscle power. Mechanical propulsion was initially provided by steam, then electricity, and later the internal combustion engine. Boatyards along the Thames mushroomed during this time, however since the 1950’s these yards have mostly disappeared, due to the use of factory produced GRP and steel narrow boats.

The 19th century was a time of social change where the new railways provided easy public access to many River Thames villages, and people started to take an interest in river pleasure activities. Much of this history is at risk of being lost or dispersed; for example:- millers and their conflict with navigation; flash locks replaced with pound locks; the formation of the Thames Conservancy; river ferries replaced by road bridges; and the dramatic increase in pleasure boating during the 19th century, and much more.

Our proposal aimed to establish a heritage museum for Berkshire of national standing, conserving and displaying artefacts of River Thames Heritage and needs to have navigation access to the Thames. The museum would also help the sustainability of the Beale Wildlife Park, who are an important rural employer of the area. This application has many benefits and is sustainable development in terms of NPPF principles.


We request that our appeal is upheld.

Latest News

20th December         -  Appeal start date 

31st January               -  The Last date for submissions                  

15th April Tuesday   -  Appeal hearing is now set for Tuesday

To be held at the Newbury Council Offices starting 10:00am


The West Berkshire Council made a strong request to have a "written representation appeal".  We asked for an appeal by the "hearing procedure" which is appropriate according to published criteria if there is significant public interest. The appeal inspectorate started working by the written procedure, but this was changed 20th Dec.


5th December:- Questions can be asked at hearings, something which is not possible with a written appeal.

You can see the email exchange with the planning inspectorate on this, and the response from the LPA; see  here


16th December:- Council stated they would be able to withdraw objection 2 (out of the 4 main objection reasons) as a result of discussion with EA and WBC ecology officers. Details here on the WBC website  Select Additional information ecology file dated 16/12/2013. Note it is a big file when downloading


20th December:- The appeal office informed us that the appeal will now be conducted by the Hearing Procedure.  This has changed dates so the appeal start date is now 20th December and not the 2nd, this means that any submission are now accepted up to 31st January 2014

There is a useful Government two page leaflet with details of what to expect at a Hearing Appeal


17th January:- Following helpful discussions with the EA, we had submitted a revised Flood Risk Assessment to the EA on 10th December. The WBC case officer has now informed us - " I have been advised that should this information be submitted as part of the appeal, the Environment Agency would be able to remove their objection subject to conditions being attached." This is good news, so we have submitted the updated FRA as part of the appeal, now shown on the WBC website.

The remaining objections by WBC are:- impact on the AONB and the unacceptable threat to the sustainability of trees. We have tried to discuss the tree issue with the WBC tree officer now that we have the tree survey which he requested, but he was too busy, so this objection still stands.


31st January:- No further appeal submissions after this date.

Our appeal statement in pdf format is here

The WBC appeal statement in pdf format is here  - note this file is about 2Mbytes

The WBC Tree Officer Appeal statement is here

25th February:- We have been advised that the appeal inspector will be K G Smith BSc MRTPI and that the informal hearing will take place in committee room 2 at the Council Offices in Newbury RG14 5LD - starting at 10am Tuesday 15 April.

If you have any queries regarding the appeal, please contact The Consuta Trust

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