Saturday, 21 July 2018

Villagers fear more homes after developer wins appeal

BENSON could have to accommodate more housing after plans for 159 homes were approved, says the

BENSON could have to accommodate more housing after plans for 159 homes were approved, says the head of the village’s conservation group.

Graeme Dodd has permission to build 107 houses and 52 retirement flats and bungalows on farmland north of Littleworth Road after winning a planning appeal last month.

George Verdon, chairman of the Bensington Society, said: “We accept the planning inspector’s decision and will be working with the parish council to ensure that the conditions set against the approval are fully met to the advantage of the village.

“Our main concern is that it’s only using part of a very large field and that in the future we may find new planning applications to develop more of the field.”

Mr Verdon, who was co-director of the parish plan, added: “We accepted that we would need over 100 houses in the future â?? but that was back in 2003.” He said he would prefer the development to be split up into several sites allocated in the plan.

Councillor Philip Murray told a meeting of Benson Parish Council that the inspector’s ruling was a “setback” for Benson and even more so for the residents of Littleworth Road.

He said that perhaps South Oxfordshire District Council could advise the council on whether there was a case for a review of the decision.

“We are powerless and can’t do anything but the district council can take legal advice,” he said.

Dave Rushton, who lives in Littleworth Road and is a former vice-chairman of the parish council, said he had written to Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority. Council vice-chairman Jon Fowler said the issue of what community facilities would be provided, previously discussed with developer West Waddy, needed to be pursued.

The council needed to ensure the developer didn’t “try to bypass stuff”.

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

Almost 150 residents formally objected as did the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the parish council.

The council said the development would be over-intensive and the site was outside the village’s built-up area. It 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 Mr Dodd’s application for 125 houses within the statutory period of three months so Mr Dodd appealed.

Then weeks before the planning inquiry he reduced the number of proposed units from 125 to 107.

Planning inspector Paul Clark acknowledged the objectors’ concerns but said they were not insurmountable.

West Waddy acted as Mr Dodd’s agent and architect Stephen Simkins spoke at the appeal hearing, telling the inspector that Benson would still be a rural village even after the new homes had been built.

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