Thursday, 21 September 2017

Traffic concern over farm plan

Plans to create a new bridleway along the Icknield Way as part of a retrospective planning application have been criticised

Plans to create a new bridleway along the Icknield Way as part of a retrospective planning application have been criticised by Watlington residents.

Copas Farms has submitted the idea as part of its revised application to use the former feed mill and other buildings at Lys Mill for storage and industrial use.

It says it has offered to create the alternative 500 metre bridleway along the historic path in order to prevent cyclists, walkers and horse riders from having to share the section with cars and HGVs.

More than 30 letters of objection were submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council during the original application’s consultation period, with most suggesting the changes would result in more heavy goods vehicles passing through the town and an increase in noise and air pollution.

A further 20 letters have been received since Copas Farms amended its original application last month.

Josephine Watts, who lives in Couching Street, said the revised planning statement was “merely a game of smoke and mirrors”. She said she was concerned that diverting users of the Icknield Way could set a precedent “whereby the track could be nibbled away bit by bit until it just becomes another road for vehicles and a piece of history lost forever”.

Jane Shaw, of Howe Road, said: “With regard to the Icknield Way being diverted from its ancient route to accommodate heavy traffic, surely it would be more appropriate to prohibit heavy traffic to travel the ancient byway, such that no diversion of its route is necessary?”

Watlington Parish Council has raised no objection to the amended plans, which include the termination of a lease with H&H General Carriers and the erection of a sign reminding exiting lorry traffic not to travel through Watlington.

The application also states that industrial use within the site would be limited to storage rather than distribution. Copas Farms says permission granted would only apply to the companies listed in the application and no other occupant would be allowed without prior consent from the council.

Councillor Robert Barber, vice-chairman of the planning committee, said councillors felt the changes would reduce the number of HGVs passing through the town. He said: “We understand that one of the present industrial occupiers will no longer be able to operate and there will be no business of that scale in the future.”

A traffic survey carried out by the parish council prompted Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, to ask Copas Farms to include a transport statement in its revised application.

Data collected by the council showed lorry movements could be more than seven times greater than estimated. On one day, 46 heavy goods vehicles were counted, compared with the company’s estimate of 43 in a week.

Letters of objection from some residents suggest traffic surveys and environmental impact surveys should be carried out before the district council makes a final decision on the application.

Cllr Barber said: “I think it is fair to say that the planning committee would be very pleased if a full traffic impact assessment was submitted to the district council to help with their decision making.”

Geoffrey Copas, of Copas Farms, said: “We always try to work with the local people in the areas where we farm and that is what we have done. We also try to make permanent bridleways and pathways to provide better access to the countryside.”

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