Developer refuses to sell site to supermarket chain
A SUPERMARKET wanted to turn a former bank in Sonning Common into a store
A SUPERMARKET wanted to turn a former bank in Sonning Common into a store but it now looks set to become flats.
Developer Stephen McCabe, of London, bought the former NatWest site, off Peppard Road, at auction and says Sainsbury’s had tried to buy it off him.
But he has submitted plans for six flats on the 708 sq m site instead. He is looking to live in one of the flats himself and rent the rest out.
Speaking at a Sonning Common Parish Council meeting last Monday Mr McCabe said he didn’t want to put independent businesses at risk by selling to a big retailer.
He said: “I was approached by Sainsbury’s who wanted to take it on and expand it. They had done all these surveys on traffic to see if it was viable but I turned them down.
“There is a little shop on the road that sells papers, it would have taken that out. I don’t think that would have been right.”
Mr McCabe, a builder by trade, wants to knock down the current building and replace it with three units and separate accesses.
For each unit there would be a ground floor flat with one-bedroom and a garden and a second flat on the first floor which would have stairs to the second floor where there would be two bedrooms.
Mr McCabe said: “I drove round the village to look at the houses and I spoke to the district council who said they prefer something that blended in or was totally modern.
“I didn’t think that would fit in. I am going to live in one of the flats if it is possible. I’m from inner city but I want to live out here. I could have tried to squeeze more units on there, potentially seven, eight or nine. I would rather build bigger ones with more rooms.”
The development would see the total floor space of the site increase by 400sq m. The total number of parking spaces will remain nine, the number registered for the site when it was a bank.
Vehicles will access the site via Sedgewell Road while the entrances to the properties would be from Peppard Road.
If approval is granted by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, Mr McCabe said the work would take six to eight months to complete.
Parish councillor Leigh Rawlins expressed concerns about shadowing from the new building but Mr McCabe said it would be no taller the current structure. He added: “The ridge height is about 9m and this is actually about 100mm less then at the moment.”
Councillor Rawlins also asked if the site would be providing any units at market value.
Mr McCabe responded, saying: “We will have to make a contribution, I think it is about £100,000 somewhere along the line. I might lease one to my sister then I would rent the rest out. I would like to rent them because then I can keep them to a high standard.”
In a letter to the district council Philip Mullin, managing director of Sonning Common Vauxhall that runs the neighbouring garage, had expressed concerns about the way the development might affect his business.
He said: “During the demolition no rubble, debris or equipment can be on our premises at our opening times. Vehicles are parked along the boundary wall so no damage can be risked.
“We have two large tanker deliveries per week and this access is needed at all times. The fence at the front of the premises needs to be below a certain height as vehicles need to pull out of the petrol forecourt on to a very busy Peppard Road.
“The business has been here for over 50 years and therefore changing the use from business use to residential use could cause some complaints from new tenants on noise levels and fumes as you would normally expect from a garage repair and petrol site.”
But parish councillors unanimously voted to recommend the plans for approval.
Cllr Rawlins said: “They are the kind of unit we would welcome into the housing mix.”
Parish council chairman Douglas Kedge said: “From what I have heard they are excellent plans. It will be a valuable addition for the village. They are splendid designs and are very thoughtful. They show an understanding of the village and the housing that is required.”
The district council will make a decision by September 26.
The NatWest bank closed in August 2014 despite a campaign by residents to save it. In March last year the cash machine on the site was blown out of a wall using gas canisters. The raiders escaped with a large sum of cash.
The blast from the canisters also shattered the windows of the building.