Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Hundreds of villagers gather to oppose 241 new homes

MORE than 200 people attended a public meeting about plans for new housing in Benson.

MORE than 200 people attended a public meeting about plans for new housing in Benson.

The meeting at the parish hall on Friday night was organised by the parish council after developer WestWaddy applied for planning permission for 241 homes on farmland north of Littleworth Road.

The company already has consent for another 107 houses and 52 retirement flats and bungalows on the land after a successfully appealing against South Oxfordshire District Council’s refusal to make a determination.

Many residents at the meeting objected to the scheme and urged the council to oppose the latest  application.

The council will agree its formal response to the district council at a meeting next week.

Council vice-chairman Jon Fowler, who chaired the meeting, said: “If one was being cynical, one would say they have put in this application to understand what people object to, then collect those and put in a full  application.

“In meetings with WestWaddy we were told inclusion of community facilities was dependent on the parish council supporting the application.”

Dave Rushton, a former parish councillor who now chairs the village’s traffic advisory group, said: “We have been involved with the application since about September.

“We met WestWaddy in early November and were surprised they put the application in.

“In their plans Littleworth Road would become two-way. The pavement would only be one metre wide.

“We think if there are 400 houses on this estate that would create 700 extra vehicles for the roads.

“We think there would be about 500 to 600 cars an hour going through the Littleworth Road choke point. We feel there should be at least another point of entry to the estate, if not two more. WestWaddy made clear to us they would not open that can of worms.”

Mr Rushton, who lives in Littleworth Road, said the parish council had raised its concerns with Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.

“We’re not sure how tough they are going to be on them over the entry point issue,” he said.

“We are going to try to persevere with them because we feel this is not safe.”

A resident asked if he knew the percentage increase in traffic the development would result in.

Mr Rushton replied that he didn’t but said that some of the houses on the estate would go right up to Littleworth Road so there would be cars parked there.

Another resident said WestWaddy’s claims that the development would result in an extra 84 car movements was “rubbish”.

Another said: “The roads are going to become a rat run. Who is going to pay for repairs to the road once WestWaddy go and start destroying another part of the UK?”

Resident Ian Leppard said: “We need to pressurise the district and county councils. I believe we have a case to go forward with. This does not make sense. We can do something.”

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Fowler said: “The district council got a very strong message that people don’t want that number of houses on the Littleworth Road site.

“The parish council will make a formal response on January 28 but bearing in mind the feedback received, I’d be extremely surprised if we did not vote to object to the application.

Councillor Fowler urged people to volunteer to help compile the neighbourhood plan.

He said: “Developers are going round looking for land to buy in places without neighbourhood plans so they can put in speculative planning  applications.

“The district council recognises we are struggling and will help us to fast- track the process. The man who would work with us is a planning inspector and runs health checks on neighbourhood plans.

“He is an expert and thinks we could get it to the submission stage in nine months. The plan only carries weight once it reaches submission stage.

“The expert thinks we need seven or eight people. We will have two or three parish councillors and another five people. We may also need people for working groups.

“It will be funded by the district council through a £10,000 grant to the parish council to have him work with us. We can also apply for another £8,000 grant. If we run out of money the district council says it will carry on funding it.”

WestWaddy says the development would form a “natural extension” to the village and provide convenient access to the village via footpaths and cycleways.

John Ashton, a partner at the firm, said it would help South Oxfordshire District Council meet the needs for housing in the district.

He said the first application went through the democratic process and the company was now engaging with the community.

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