Sunday, 22 July 2018

Developer finally wins fight for 159 homes on green site

PLANS for 159 new homes on the outskirts of Benson have been approved following an appeal

PLANS for 159 new homes on the outskirts of Benson have been approved following an appeal by the developer.

Graeme Dodd now has permission to build 107 houses and 52 retirement flats and bungalows on farmland north of Littleworth Road.

Mr Dodd, whose father-in-law Ray Stiles owns the  24.8-hectare field, submitted a planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council in March last year.

Almost 150 residents responded with letters of objection, as did the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Benson Parish Council also opposed the scheme, saying it was over-intensive development outside the village’s built-up area and would create traffic problems on the one-way Littleworth Road and pose a hazard to pedestrians.

The district council expressed “serious concerns” that the adjoining conservation area would be “undermined by the total loss of the open space”.

It said that, unlike those in the historic village centre, the houses would have front gardens, parking spaces and identical roof pitches so were out of place. The council failed to decide the application within three months so Mr Dodd appealed. Then weeks before the planning inquiry he reduced the number of proposed houses from 125 to 107.

Delivering his verdict this week, planning inspector Paul Clark acknowledged objectors’ concerns but said they were not insurmountable.

He said Mr Dodd could be required to plant a hedgerow to “provide a more defined boundary between Benson and the surrounding countryside”.

He said the properties within the development would be similar to those in neighbouring Sunnyside and mostly with gabled roofs, in keeping with those in older parts of Benson. He said: “I share the perplexity expressed by the appellant’s advocate at the council’s putative reason for refusal.

“It appears to have little or no substance to it and what substance there is has little significance. The proposal’s internal design would be acceptable.”

Mr Clark said the development would result in the loss of views towards Littleworth but the harm would be “clearly less than substantial”.

He said Mr Dodd had agreed to widen Littleworth Road to make it two-way apart from a short stretch at its eastern end.

He could also be required to provide a raised pedestrian crossing near the entrance of the footpath leading to Benson Primary School.

Mr Clark said: “This is not an appeal proposal which is perfect in every way [but] the benefits in terms of  housing supply, not just in terms of numbers but also in terms of type and affordability, are indisputable and considerable.

“While recognising the priority given to the protection of heritage assets, the development would be sustainable.

“Whether or not it is needed to ensure the district council has a five-year land supply of deliverable housing sites, it would significantly boost supply. There would also be benefits in terms of highway safety.”

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