Monday, 16 July 2018

Villagers urged to support neighbourhood plan in vote

RESIDENTS of Sonning Common are being urged to vote in favour of the village’s neighbourhood development

RESIDENTS of Sonning Common are being urged to vote in favour of the village’s neighbourhood development plan.

The plan will go to public referendum on Thursday, September 29 with the polling station at the village hall in Wood Lane.

The document, which names five sites in the village suitable for a minimum of 193 homes, has already been approved by an independent examiner.

If more than 50 per cent of voters support the plan, it will become legally binding so South Oxfordshire District Council must take it into account when deciding planning applications.

Barrie Greenwood, chairman of the plan’s working group, said: “We have had discussions with our residents about the plan.

“We want to set the agenda about the significant sites for development in the village and the number of houses at these sites.”

The sites are as follows:

• Fifty homes on land off the back of Ashford Avenue, with a recreation area next door, north of Chiltern Edge School. 

• Thirty-seven homes on land currently used by the Chiltern Edge School as a playing field. 

• Twenty-six homes at Kennylands Road.

• Twenty homes behind Kennylands Road.

• Sixty homes at Lea Meadow, although planning permission has already been granted for 65.

The working party was commended by examiner Nigel McGurk for the “comprehensive and robust” process of land allocation and assessment of housing needs. 

In August last year the number of proposed homes in the document was increased from 138 to 193.

This was on the recommendation of South Oxfordshire District Council, which said the village’s allocation was likely to increase.

In June this year the authority confirmed that “larger villages” such as Sonning Common would be asked to take more homes.

Councillor Greenwood said: “We added more homes at reserve sites, so when we were advised to increase the number we were proved right to have done so. The examiner recognised this and that we had followed the brief.”

Cllr Greenwood pointed out that the village would receive a higher proportion of the community infrastructure levy that is paid by developers if the plan passes the referendum.

A village with a neighbourhood plan receives 25 per cent of the levy but one without receives only 15 per cent.

The levy is designed to help mitigate the effects of development by helping to fund infrastructure such as schools, transport and flood defences as well as community, leisure and health and social care facilities.  

Cllr Greenwood said: “It is of considerable benefit to the village. Our final plan lists areas which the working party and parish council believe will best benefit from the CIL money.”

These include a recreation area which is part of the development at Bishopswood Field to the west of the village. The plan says: “A key feature of the plan has been to enable identification of deficient resources and in this regard recreation and sports facilities rank highly, as do the needs of our schools and library.

“Urgent solutions are also required to tackle the traffic congestion and parking issues which are prevalent in the village centre and in particular Wood Lane, the creation of ‘shared spaces’ being one option.

“A task group will be established by the parish council after the referendum to further consult with residents and to seek advice from traffic specialists.”

Cllr Greenwood added: “We want the residents to come out and vote. We are hoping a large majority will support us. It has been a huge amount of voluntary effort and the majority of us feel quite confident.”

A copy of the plan will be on display at the village hall on Sunday, September 25.

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