Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Villagers set for new fight over 177 homes

PLANS have been unveiled for 125 new houses in Benson.

PLANS have been unveiled for 125 new houses in Benson.

Developer Graeme Dodd also wants to build 42 retirement flats and 10 retirement bungalows on the site north of Littleworth Road, which is owned by his father-in-law Ray Stiles.

He says the development would have 40 per cent affordable housing and would fulfil the village’s “wish list” with space for a skate park, primary school, nature park, forest trail, burial ground, allotments and three full-sized football pitches.

The plans, drawn up by architects West Waddy ADP, have been revealed prior to a planning application being submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council in the new year.

Developers have made repeated attempts to build up to 800 houses on the land since the Seventies but have always been refused permission by the council.

Five years ago, residents halted plans for 150 new homes split between Littleworth Road and Watlington Road by launching a Keep Benson A Village campaign.

Dave Rushton, who lives in Littleworth Road, claimed the latest plans heralded the start of much more development on the 25-hectare site.

He said: “This site could take a great deal more than the 177 dwellings now being discussed.

“West Waddy put on a very glossy presentation but I hope it didn’t fool people. All the would-be developers are offering community land, so there was nothing new in that.”

He was also concerned about plans to widen all or part of Littleworth Road to allow two-way access, saying: “I believe all their road proposals would be harmful to the village since they affect everyone, not just Littleworth.”

Jon Fowler, chairman of Benson Parish Council, said he was pleased that West Waddy had considered the village’s wish list but said to have so many homes in one place was “contrary to the wishes of the village”.

He said: “The majority view was to split development over a number of sites to ensure better integration with the existing village. There is also the traffic and congestion aspect to consider of having so many houses in one location.”

Mr Dodd said the plans had received a lot of positive feedback from residents who attended a consultation meeting.

People were asked to fill in feedback forms to record their first impressions, what style of houses they would like to see and their views on widening Littleworth Road.

Mr Dodd said: “Some people look at the plans as 125 houses but we are actually trying to improve the village by increasing the facilities and making it a much more desirable place — it is not simply somebody dumping a lot more houses in the village.

“Development in general is a benefit for the village, particularly with the facilities, and that is what some people are realising. It is impossible to please everyone and I think the people who make themselves known are the ones who are not in favour.”

Mr Dodd said the retirement homes would meet a growing demand.

“We hope that this will allow the people of Benson to downsize earlier and free up some of the existing housing stock for new families,” he said. “A lot of over-55s want to release equity in their home and have a different lifestyle in a secure and safe environment.”

Mr Dodd said there were no plans to build on the rest of the site.

“The Government is saying that this area is in need of 125 houses and we are only looking to fill their requirement,” he said. “Any subsequent application would be assessed on its own merits.”

To comment on the plans, visit the West Waddy website www.westwaddy-adp.co.uk

* What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email letters@henleystandard.co.uk

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