Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Residents want to preserve village’s only open space

RESIDENTS of Christmas Common have moved to protect the village’s only open space after plans to build on

RESIDENTS of Christmas Common have moved to protect the village’s only open space after plans to build on it were rejected.

They want to have the plot of land known as Old Church registered as an asset of community value.

It follows a decision by South Oxfordshire District Council to refuse planning permission for a detached two-storey three-bedroom house on the land, which is to the east of the main road between No 1 Forestry Cottages to the north and The Old Church to the south.

Villager Sylvia Mountford told a meeting of Watlington Parish Council that there were covenants on the land stating it was only for community use.

“It’s in the centre of the village and is actually our only open space,” she said. The plot was sold by the Forestry Commission in 2011 after being advertised only to the residents of the houses that were built by the commission in 1952.



“We wanted to buy it but we couldn’t afford it,” said Mrs Mountford. “It was bought by another neighbour who told us he would buy it for the village and we thought ‘that’s brilliant’.

“Unfortunately, four years later, he put in a planning application, originally for a brownfield site.

“It was refused and we have since learnt that our vision could become true if we could claim this as a community asset.”

She said the residents had consulted a solicitor and found out that the covenants stating no building should take place still applied.

“It was genuinely for the benefit of residents,” she said. “We thought wouldn’t it be great if this little plot could be for the benefit of the wider community. We would love to claim it back.”

Mrs Mountford suggested having picnic tables, a shelter and information boards about the wildlife and footpaths in the Chilterns and said the idea was supported by the Chilterns Conservation Board.

The council agreed to set up a group of members to investigate the issue and report back. They are Matt Reid, Terry Jackson and Tom Bindoff.

The original application by Alan Tipper to develop the site was for a pair of two-storey semi-detached houses but district council planning officers raised concerns and the plans were amended. Last month, the council’s planning commitee refused the revised scheme, saying the development would fail to conserve the landscape qualities of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Councillor Reid spoke to the committee on behalf of the parish council, saying it was concerned about the lack of an environmental impact assessment.

Karen Clark, Mr Tipper’s agent, said the land was private, the development would have a positive relationship with the surrounding properties and the area needed housing.

She said there was no requirement for an environmental impact assessment and the plans didn’t impact on the AONB. She also said Mr Tipper had offered to sell the land for what he had paid for it.

Councillor Anna Badcock, Watlington’s representative on the district council, said 123 residents had signed a petition objecting to the plans.



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