Saturday, 21 July 2018

‘No guarantee of community benefits with 50 new homes’

THE Chilterns Conservation Board has objected to plans for 50 new homes in Sonning Common.

THE Chilterns Conservation Board has objected to plans for 50 new homes in Sonning Common.

Linden Homes and Patricia Pelly, who owns Bishopswood Farm, have applied for permission to develop land off Reades Lane, which backs on to Ashford Avenue.

The board wants only the south-eastern part of the 7.7-hectare site to be used so that there is a landscape buffer with the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, for which it is responsible.

The site is earmarked for 50 homes in the village’s draft neighbourhood plan, which is expected to go to referendum in September.

Linden Homes has applied to build 46 houses with between two and four bedrooms, 40 per cent of which would be “affordable”, and four one- bedroom flats.

The developer also wants to transfer ownership of a piece of neighbouring land from Mrs Pelly to Sonning Common Parish Council so it can be used for recreation, as suggested in the neighbourhood plan.

The conservation board has raised concerns about the transfer of the land in a letter to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

It says: “We recognise that providing improved recreational facilities is an ambition of the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan working group and that the village community is set to grow with the housing allocations.

“However, with this current application there is no guarantee of the delivery of these benefits. The developer is cherry-picking the housing element.

“In our view [the site’s] allocation should be subject to a reduced development area and be part of a comprehensive scheme to deliver the associated community benefits. This application fails to deliver or guarantee the community benefits, recreational opportunities or local green space.”

Lucy Murfett, planning officer for the conservation board, said: “We recommend that the application should be withdrawn and should await due process of neighbourhood plan consultation, independent examination and referendum.

“The Chilterns Conservation Board has to give authority to our primary duty, which is conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and that involves landscape considerations.

“The application is premature when assessed against that process.”

Ms Murfett also raised concerns about the design of the development, saying the proposed road layout “rings alarm bells”.

She said a road terminated at the north-west corner of the site, leaving spurs pointing towards the land designated as “local green space” in the neighbourhood plan and an adjoining field belonging to Bishopswood Farm.

“This is completely inappropriate as [these] are sensitive AONB sites not proposed for development in the neighbourhood plan,” she said.

The applicants disagree.

In a letter to the council, Stuart Miles, associate director at Development Planning and Design Services, says: “While the site is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the provision of sports and recreation facilities meets the exceptional circumstances/public interest tests set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.

“Delivery of the sports facility is a key objective for Sonning Common, so the proposal has achieved substantial support and should therefore be considered to carry substantial weight.”

Sonning Common Parish Council’s planning committee has recommended the application is refused.

The district council will make a decision by September 30.

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