Thursday, 24 August 2017

Developer faces villagers at home inquiry

BENSON would still be a rural village even after 160 new homes were built, an inquiry heard.

BENSON would still be a rural village even after 160 new homes were built, an inquiry heard.

Architect Stephen Simkins made the claim as he spoke in favour of a planning application by Graeme Dodd to develop land north of Littleworth Road, which is owned by his father–in–law Ray Stiles.

The development would include 107 houses, 41 retirement flats and 11 retirement bungalows.

The inquiry at Benson parish hall was sparked by Mr Dodd when he appealed against South Oxfordshire District Council’s failure to make a decision on his original application for 177 homes last year.

Mr Simkins, a partner at architects West Waddy, told the inspector Paul Clark that the 7.8 hectare site was currently used as farmland but there were homes at the southern and eastern boundaries in Littleworth Road and Sunnyside respectively.



“Given the position of the site we believe it’s ideally suited for residential development and is in a highly sustainable location,” he said.

“The vision behind all this is to ensure we’re creating a sustainable development with a sense of space.”

He said the development would move the “rural edge” of the settlement about 250m north, adding: “Benson will still be a village in a rural setting.”

The density of the scheme would be 21 dwellings per hectare which was “very low” compared with most commercial housebuilders who looked to achieve 25 to 30 dwellings per hectare.

Resident Nick Duncan told the inquiry that it would be the largest single development in Benson’s history and would “urbanise” the village.

He said: “It will, at a single stroke, increase the village population by some 10 per cent â?? on the basis of an average of two people per new dwelling â?? and put increased strain on local services.

“A developer is likely to complete the build in a short time frame, which will create immediate stress on the infrastructure of the village.”

He said residents wanted new homes to be spread across a number of sites, not concentrated in one area.

“This development will extend the built–up area, encroach on the countryside and spoil the landscape setting,” said Mr Duncan.

“The open field along Littleworth has been farmed since pre–medieval times and has for 300 years provided the historic boundary between the cottages of Littleworth Road and the countryside.

“The field also provides the only northward views from this part of Benson.

“Surely the ripping out of 450m of the ancient Littleworth hedgerow, the widening of Littleworth Road to make it a two–way direct route and the building of a housing estate alongside the Littleworth conservation area cannot but significantly detract from the area’s character and appearance and have a major and permanent negative effect.

“The developer promises that this part of the village will not be â??urbanised’ but it is hard to imagine how a housing estate of such large proportions cannot but urbanise this historic village.

“The erection of such a large number of houses on one plot can only be seen as a development more appropriate to the suburban environment of a town rather than a village. The proposed development is ill advised, oversized and should not be authorised.”

Jon Fowler, chairman of Benson Parish Council, said there had been a lack of consultation over the plans.

The council had only become aware of the inquiry in January and with a closing date for comments of February 13, this allowed very little time for it to consult with the parish. Councillor Fowler said: “The appellant delivered an A5 flyer to some residents but by no means all those households impacted by the  development.

“Of particular note is that the leaflet did not get delivered to all residents of Littleworth Road or Sunnyside, two of the areas most affected by the application.

“The local community has been prejudiced by a lack of engagement and consultation in respect of this evolved scheme.

“The parish council accepts the need for additional housing in Benson and indeed welcomes the economic benefit additional housing would bring to local shops and services. This is not a case of nimbyism, nor are we hostile to new housing.

“However, what we require is plan–led development, not urbanisation directly adjacent to a conservation area.”

Mr Clark will issue his decision in writing.



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