Thursday, 29 June 2017

Community facilities 'won't cope with village expansion'

BENSON’S community facilities need to be upgraded or rebuilt, according to the village’s draft neighbourhood plan.

The document, which is currently out to public consultation, says the village must have a “modern, vibrant” centre and ensure there are adequate facilities to serve the growing population.

Benson is facing the prospect of almost 1,100 new homes under planning applications which have already been approved or are pending.

The draft plan has allocated four sites for about 365 new homes and says large-scale development will require better community facilities.

It says “enhancements” will be required at the Millstream Surgery, Benson Primary School, the post office, library, parish hall, youth hall and scout hut.

The existing healthcare facilities will not be able to meet the needs of a much larger population.

The document says: “There is insufficient space for expansion on the current Millstream Surgery site and hence adequate space for a new surgery, together with adequate parking, needs to be provided and land set aside for this expansion.

“The plan reserves space for a new doctors’ surgery on the site to the south of St Helen’s Avenue.

“This is relatively central to the village and would be development in association with a package of proposals, including the development of up to 25 dwellings on the eastern part of the site furthest from RAF Benson.”

The plan says that the library, which is currently in Castle Square, near the centre of the village, might also have to be moved.

It explains: “It is unlikely that the current library site can accommodate a large increase in building size, not least over the loss of car parking which this would cause.

“Such car parking is regarded by the Friends of Benson Library as important for the future of the library given that a large proportion of library customers live outside Benson village. Furthermore, it is anticipated in any event that a larger library building will be required in the village to accommodate the level of growth promoted in this plan.

“One possible way forward would be to locate the library with or alongside a community facility such as a heritage or local history centre.”

Oxfordshire County Council, which owns the site, is said to be willing to consider any proposals to move the library.

The document says the burial ground opposite St Helen’s Church will be full “within the next few years”, so land for a new burial ground needs to be identified and set aside.

The church and the parish council believe the best site for this is on the southern side of St Helen’s Avenue because of the proximity to the church and the availability of good parking as well as there being no risk from flooding.

They propose that an area of about 0.25 hectares is set aside.

The plan says both the youth hall and scout hut are outdated and need to be upgraded or relocated.

It also complains about the lack of informal recreational facilities for older children in Benson when compared with other places nearby and says some families travel elsewhere to access facilities such as skate parks.

“Any new residential development is only likely to increase demand,” it says. “This plan allocates land for the provision of a recreational facility for older children/young people in the village e.g. skate park. For small developments, developers will be expected to make a contribution to enhance existing play facilities.”

The document concludes: “Any significant increase in population within the neighbourhood plan area will have a major impact on the services and facilities available within the village.

“To ensure that both existing and new residents continue to enjoy community infrastructure, it will be necessary to put in place an infrastructure plan detailing what facilities will need to be enhanced, what the time-frame is for those changes and who will be responsible for meeting any costs incurred (including agreed contributions from developers).”

The consultation closes at noon on April 14. For more information, visit www.bensonplan.org/pre-
submission-plan

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