Monday, 23 July 2018

Six sites in village out of 15 put forward for development by owners would be suitable

ONLY six out of 15 sites put forward for new housing in Goring are suitable for development, according

ONLY six out of 15 sites put forward for new housing in Goring are suitable for development, according to a report.

The other nine should not be built on because they are at the edge of the village and housing would spoil views of the surrounding countryside, says the report by consultants Bramhill Design.

The company was commissioned by the group which is writing the Goring neighbourhood plan.

It says the only sites which are suitable in their entirety are:

* Land to the rear of Thames Court, an office complex off High Street and Cleeve Road.

* Land to the south of that plot between High Street and Station Road.

The first sites measures about 0.3 hectares but it has not been said how many homes could go there.

The land is owned by Thames Properties, of Richmond, and is currently used as a car park and has a warehouse.

The owner says the site would take only a year to redevelop but the work could not start until 2018 at the earliest because it is currently let to a commercial tenant who could invoke a break clause in its contract in two years or will occupy the site until 2023.

The second site comprises The Arcade shopping centre and the TSB and Mountain Mania Cycles units, off High Street, as well as the BT telephone exchange, the Wheel Orchard car park and Goring Community Centre, all off Station Road.

 Lochailort Investments, of London, has proposed the site is redeveloped for mixed use by keeping up to 15 retail units and building 24 flats in buildings no more than two storeys tall.

However, this could take up to three years to complete and the site has at least six landlords so negotiations would be complex. South Oxfordshire District Council owns the car park, Oxfordshire County Council owns the community centre and the rest are privately owned.

The Bramhill report says four other plots are suitable in principle but require “good landscape and visual mitigation” to prevent any harm to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They are:

* A 2.67-hectare plot between Manor Road and Elmcroft.

* Land to the west of Manor Road.

* Land off Icknield Road, behind Cleeve Cottages and next to the town’s fire station.

* Land at the village’s northern edge, east of Wallingford Road.

The first of these was the subject of a failed appeal earlier this month by Elegant Homes and Frenbury Developments for 35 homes. A planning inspector said the scheme would have a damaging effect on the landscape.

Bramhill agrees that a development would have a “permanent impact on Goring’s rural setting” but says this can be overcome by building at lower densities and planting large trees and hedges around the edge. Otherwise, it says, the site is unacceptable.

It suggests similar measures for the second site, which is on the opposite side of the street and measures about 0.57 hectares.

The third site measures 0.63 hectares and is already the subject of another planning application by Elegant Homes for 11 homes. The parish council has objected on the grounds of overdevelopment but Bramhill says planting along the boundary would “satisfactorily mitigate any adverse effects” on the countryside.

The report says the Wallingford Road site, which runs behind the houses in Springhill Road, is suitable as long as the western and northern edges are untouched.

It says these areas are too sensitive but the south-eastern corner is less visible as it is on a slope and near the edge of Goring’s built-up area. It says planting is needed at the boundary to preserve a “strongly defined transition” to the countryside beyond.

McAdden Homes wants to build 67 units on the land and has sought advice from the district council’s planning officers but has not yet submitted a formal application.

Seven of the nine plots that Bramhill ruled out for development are off Gatehampton Road, to the south of the village.

The report says this area forms a “green gap” between the village centre and the former hamlet of Gatehampton, which still retains a “sense of remoteness and isolation” from the rest of Goring. This allows “appreciation of the unbroken sweep of the landscape” and building on it would “substantially erode the character and definition of the AONB”.

The other two sites are land to the west of Wallingford Road and land north of Battle Road, both at Goring’s northern edge.  Bramhill says development would be too damaging in both cases.

The neighbourhood plan, which a volunteer steering group is writing under the parish council’s supervision, will name the sites where 86 houses should be built by 2027 to meet Government targets.

Goring’s steering group hopes to publish a draft plan and put it out to consultation by the end of the year.

It will then go to the district council, which will conduct a second consultation before submitting the plan for independent examination.

The plan will go to a referendum in May and will be adopted if it receives more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Parish council chairman Kevin Bulmer said: “This report only assesses the sites on landscape impact but that will form an important part of the site selection process — some might say the most important part. It is evidence-based and looks to be extremely well-produced so the neighbourhood plan committee should be complimented.

“The fact that the report’s findings reflect what many Goring residents might want to hear is purely coincidental but not surprising. We’re in the unuasual position of lying between two areas of outstanding natural beauty, the other being the North Wessex Downs, and that’s got to be an important factor in limiting development. You need to have a damn good reason for building on an AONB.”

A steering group spokeswoman said the findings were similar to those of a report commissioned by the district council when compiling its current local plan in 2011, adding: “The scope for anyone to challenge the results further down the line will be fairly limited.”

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