We have performed a detailed study of the impact of basal plane stacking faults (BSFs) on the optical properties of both a-plane InGaN/GaN quantum wells (QWs) and GaN template samples grown on r-sapphire. In particular, we have used polarised photoluminescence excitation spectroscopy (P-PLE) to investigate the nature of the low temperature recombination as well as extracting information on the valence band (VB) polarisation anisotropy. Our low temperature P-PLE results revealed not only excitons associated with intersubband quantum well transitions and the GaN barrier material but also a transition associated with creation of excitons in BSFs. The strength of this BSF transition varied with detection energy across the quantum well emission suggesting that there is a significant contribution to the emission line width from changes in the local electronic environment of the QWs due to interactions with BSFs. Furthermore, we observed a corresponding progressive increase in the VB splitting of the QWs as the detection energy was varied across the quantum well emission spectrum.