Friday, 18 August 2017

Reluctant response to car park plea

SONNING Common Parish Council has been told it might have to be responsible for any new car park in the

SONNING Common Parish Council has been told it might have to be responsible for any new car park in the village.

Councillors have asked South Oxford District Council to provide more car parking in the centre.

But district council chief executive David Buckle replied that he was “not minded” to take on responsibility for extra car parks.

He said his council had handed over administrative duties of the car parks in Watlington and Benson to the parish councils.

Mr Buckle said: “If the land is to be acquired it is likely to involve a significant cost and the parish council will need to clear how it anticipates this being funded — not just acquisition, but laying out and ongoing maintenance too.”

Councillor Leigh Rawlins had suggested an unused site to the south-east of Wood Lane could provide up to 120 spaces. He urged a decision on parking provision to be made before the village’s neighbourhood plan is completed.

But Mr Buckle said: “There is no guarantee that the landowner will sell the land willingly, which could necessitate compulsory purchase. This is a long, expensive process fraught with pitfalls and this council would have to give such action very careful consideration before deciding to proceed.”

Alan Rooke, who represents Sonning Common on the district council, said: “I don’t think the district council can afford the land but there is money in the pot to help the parish council.”

Councillor Paul Harrison, who is also a district councillor, suggested the idea was included in the neighbourhood plan but Cllr Rawlins said: “The idea that the neighbourhood plan alone can achieve this isn’t the way to go.”

The land has two owners, who have together previously applied for 10 houses to be built. The application was rejected because it was deemed by planning officers to be over-development.

Cllr Rawlins believes the land could be split between new homes and a car park. He said there was a “reasonable public interest” in contacting the landowners of the site to discuss whether they would be willing to sell.

He urged the district council to spell out whether it would support a new car park.

“There seems to be encouragement for discussion and we need to clarify what that means because the message is unclear,” said Cllr Rawlins. “I think they are certainly suggesting they would prefer in terms of administration for it to be dealt with locally.”

Council chairman Douglas Kedge said: “We want to work together in trying to solve the parking problem.”

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