Sunday, 24 June 2018

Developers win appeal for 10 homes in village centre

TEN homes are to be built in Sonning Common.

TEN homes are to be built in Sonning Common.

Elegant Homes will build two pairs of semi-detached houses and two detached houses on vacant land behind the Tandoori Connoisseur restaurant in Wood Lane.

Another two pairs of semi-detached houses will be built by Henley developer Fieldgate Properties on neighbouring land with access behind the Occasions store.

Sonning Common Parish Council and South Oxfordshire District Council had opposed the plans but both applications were approved last week on appeal.

The district council had refused permission because it said the developments would have a negative effect on the character of the area.

A planning inspector, who heard the appeal, said the derelict plots of land made “little positive contribution to the appearance of the area” and the developments would not be highly visible from the street.

He said the land was a suitable location for residential development and the “attractively designed dwellings” would “sit comfortably” in the area.

Councillor Barrie Greenwood, chairman of Sonning Common Parish Council’s planning committee, claimed the developments would be over-intensive as they would exceed the recommended density of 25 homes per hectare.

He said: “What concerns us is the urbanisation of the centre of the village. We’re concerned about the increased traffic right in the centre, which is congested as it is with significant parking problems.”

He was disappointed that a flower bed and a bus shelter would have to be moved to make room for more parking spaces for the smaller development.

The parish council had tried in vain to encourage the two developers to work together to create an access between the sites that would enable residents to use the same entrance near the restaurant.

Cllr Greenwood said: “It would be appropriate for the parish council to talk to both developers to see whether this access issue can be resolved and do as much as we can to soften the impact on the village centre.”

He said the bus shelter was in a prime position and was particularly useful for elderly people. Councillor Leigh Rawlins, who has campaigned for the land to be used as a car park, said: “When people see this development in the flesh it will be a big issue and there will be plenty of consequences.”

Councillor Douglas Kedge, who chairs the parish council, said: “We want to work with the developers in a constructive way. We don’t want to be hostile in trying to preserve what can be preserved.”

Peter Neville, managing director of Elegant Homes, said: “While I am pleased with the decision, I am disappointed that we had to go to appeal. We would much prefer to obtain planning approvals by working with the local community where we can address local issues.

“We did approach the parish council with a proposal to incorporate more parking in front of the shops with a view to negotiating a planning consent but they were not interested in any form of dialogue.”

Chris Fuller, of Fieldgate Properties, said “We fully support the democratic process that parish councils and planning committees are supposed to enshrine but the amateurs continually overriding the professional planners is making a mockery of this Government’s plans to provide all this much-needed new housing stock.”

He pointed out that in a 2010 housing survey, 81 per cent of Sonning Common residents said they favoured small developments in the village.

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