Sunday, 15 July 2018

Residents attack developer for ignoring housing quota

RESIDENTS have attacked a developer for ignoring the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan.

RESIDENTS have attacked a developer for ignoring the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan.

Gallagher Estates, of Warwick, is seeking planning permission for 95 homes off Kennylands Road but the site is earmarked for only 26 houses in the plan, which passed a referendum last month.

About 50 villagers attended a meeting of Sonning Common Parish Council’s planning committee on Monday to question the company, which insists its proposal is the most suitable use of the site.

Councillor Barrie Greenwood, who led the neighbourhood plan working party, said: “This application is saying that our plan is not worth the paper it is written on.

“It is against our neighbourhood plan and it is an attempt to dismantle it by swapping part of the application with something totally different.”

David Winchester, of Kennylands Road, said: “I’m intrigued as to why Gallagher has put in an application for 260 per cent more homes then set out in the neighbourhood plan.

“They are trying to not only completely demolish our plan but others because they are a land-banking organisation. If their plans are seen to have precedent over our plan then the value of their company will go up.

“Clearly the public will have heard the phrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’. We should adopt the slogan ‘26 means 26’.” The audience then applauded.

Paul Mills, who also lives in Kennylands Road, said the developer’s plans went against everything the village had worked for over the last four years.

“This should be thrown out,” he said. “This is 69 more houses thea required.”

Raquel Stavropoulos, also of Kennylands Road, said the developer has “a very strong moral obligation”. 

“We worked so hard to come together and made tough decisions that should be respected,” she said. “If there is a need for further housing then bring it back to the community and let it decide.

“Such a large housing estate would certainly cause a huge amount of disturbance to the residents that live nearby and impact on their emotional wellbeing.” Sarah Hall, from Chalkhouse Green, said it was crucial to protect South Oxfordshire from urban creep, adding: “I can’t tell you how dangerous this is for Sonning Common, Eye & Dunsden and Kidmore End.”

The plans were defended by Andy Lawson, project director for Gallagher Estates, Michael Knott, of planning consultants Barton Wilmore, Andy Williams, of landscape architects Define, and Matt Grist, of highways consultants Jubb, who took questions from the audience.

Mr Lawson said his company did not own the land but was trying to obtain planning permission under an agreement with the owner, S and M Farming, from Newbury.

Mr Knott said: “Contrary to some of the views expressed, our position is that our proposals are in line with the strategies of the neighbourhood plan.

“It is very clear on more affordable housing and more for local residents, which is included in our plan.”

Mr Williams said his company had looked carefully at the village to make sure the plans were in keeping.

He said: “Our solution is to positively address the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is a common approach to development. We approached the application by trying to create a place that is positively embraced and we believe we are doing the right thing by creating a robust form for the site.”

The committee unanimously recommended the application is refused — to applause from the audience.

Councillor John Stoves said: “I will do everything I can to get this application turned down.”

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, will make a decision by December 22.

The Sonning Common neighbourhood plan names sites for a minimum of 193 homes to be built by 2027 to meet government targets.

In last month’s referendum, 94 per cent of the 1,429 people who voted supported the plan. The result means that the document is legally binding and the district council must take it into consideration when deciding planning applications. 

However, the council is under pressure to take a more lenient approach to applications because it has failed to identify enough immediately available land to meet housing demand for the next five years.

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