Friday, 20 July 2018

Revealed: seven sites in village where 140 homes may be built

SEVEN sites in Sonning Common are being considered for development.

SEVEN sites in Sonning Common are being considered for development.

Three options using different combinations are being taken forward to the design stage by the village’s neighbourhood plan working group.

Sonning Common has been earmarked for 138 homes to be built by 2027 and it has also been asked to identify more than 10 hectares of land for offices, sport and recreational use.

About 60 people attended a public meeting at the village hall, where the options were revealed following a survey of residents in July.

Bishopswood Middle Field would accommodate 42 homes in all three options while part of Kennylands Infill would take either 16 or 18 homes.

Land at Hagpits could include either 28 homes or a combination of offices and 10 homes between the orchard and house.

Offices and homes could also be built in Lea Meadow, although another option is to have 38 homes only.

Peppard Road Infill would accommodate 15 homes on two sites in one option but would not be developed in the other two options.

A plot on the north-east side of the Chiltern Edge School site would take 34 homes in two of the options.

The south-east part of Old Copse Field would have 11 homes under one option but would be amenity green space under the alternatives. Land at Thames Valley Gym would remain as it is, while Memorial Hall Field would only be developed for sports.

All the landowners have indicated their willingness, in principle, to sell their sites for development.

Councillor Leigh Rawlins, a member of the working group, said 81 per cent of people who responded to a community survey in 2010 said they would prefer to see development spread across a number of sites.

“The clear evidence is that new housing needs in Sonning Common are strictly for one-, two- and three-bedroom homes,” he said.

“For many decades there have not been many new homes in Sonning Common and so what was once a modest two-bedroom bungalow has often been extended to be a four- or five-bedroom house.” Cllr Rawlins said the working group had also looked at the issues of sustainability, including the wellbeing of shops and services in the village centre and school and recreation facilities.

The group has met with a planning officer from the Chilterns Conservation Board, who stated that a strong case would have to be made for development in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Cllr Rawlins said the officer was “strongly against” any development in Old Copse Field, Peppard Road Infill and Memorial Hall Field, although he might support the last being used for sports pitches.

The officer was also ready to hear a case for housing on Bishopswood Middle Field.

Cllr Rawlins said the owner of Bishopswood Farm, which includes three plots in the AONB, would probably only sell his land if it included some housing on the middle field, so it could only be used as a complete unit or not at all.

He said the officer had recognised the arguments about the unique way in which the village had expanded and the complexities of its landscape setting and borders with other villages as well as the relative lack of facilities.

“The case will need to be compelling and any decision is subject to that case being documented and proven,” he added.

The officer was said to be content with development on the other sites but using the school land would require the consent of the Education Secretary.

The working group will now use the three options to create design outlines for the north and south sections of the village in conjunction with planning consultants.

Cllr Rawlins said residents would have an opportunity to contribute to the design ideas.

“We have always set out to undertake development responsibly,” he said. “We truly need new development and our obligations are not optional.

“However, given that development is coming, it is important that it is done sensitively and that reasonable concerns are properly addressed and mitigated.”

* In last week’s Henley Standard, it was stated that Craig Henderson was a consultant assigned to assess traffic and parking on behalf of the group. Mr Henderson has asked us to point out that in fact he is a resident and associate member of the group.

A DEVELOPER that wants to build on one of the sites not shortlisted for housing in the neighbourhood plan has asked for its request to be reconsidered.

TA Fisher, of Reading, wants to build 33 homes on the land known as Sonning Edge, off Kennylands Road.

The site is included in the plan but is not being considered for development.

Julian Pacey, head of land and planning at TA Fisher, said: “We believe we have supplied information to show why our site should be included more than any of the other sites which are being put forward.

“It is difficult to see why our site is not being included in the emerging neighbourhood plan when it has been shown to be, in principle, suitable for development and outside the AONB. The emerging neighbourhood plan proposes to allocate a significant amount of development within the AONB while there are sufficient deliverable and suitable sites that fall outside it.

“We strongly believe our site should be included and are asking for it to be urgently reconsidered.”

Speaking at the public meeting, Cllr Rawlins acknowledged the developer’s interest but said it had not been supported in residents’ surveys.

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