Thursday, 19 July 2018

Developer accused of ‘greed’ with plan for new 50-home estate

RESIDENTS and councillors have criticised plans for a 50-home estate in Sonning Common.

RESIDENTS and councillors have criticised plans for a 50-home estate in Sonning Common.

During a public meeting at the village hall, about 30 people voiced fears about plans to develop a 7.7-hectare field to the north of Reades Lane and west of Ashford Avenue.

Linden Homes and Patricia Pelly, who owns the neighbouring Bishopswood Farm, have submitted a planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council for 46 houses with between two and four bedrooms and four one-bedroom flats. Forty per cent of the units would be classed as “affordable”.

The main entrance would be off Reades Lane.

A field to the south west of the site has been set aside for recreation and would be given to the parish council or a community charity.

The field is earmarked for 50 homes in Sonning Common’s draft neighbourhood development plan but opponents say the application is premature because the plan has not yet been to a referendum.

They also claim the development would create a “rat run” to the north-east of the site in Lambourne Road, where a second “emergency access” is proposed.

Parish councillor Barrie Greenwood, who chairs the plan working group, said the development went against its policies on access and housing mix.

The document says no more than 10 per cent of homes on the site should have four or five bedrooms but Linden Homes proposes 10 units of this size, which is 20 per cent.

Cllr Greenwood said this was a “considerable” increase.

He said: “We have held consultation with the landowners, residents and neighbours of this site.

“Our expectations and our demands are that the applicants realise fully and properly the aims and objectives of our plan. This application is clearly premature and it has come out of the blue. It goes against the time and effort the working group has put in.”

Fellow councillor Colin Reynolds said: “From the start, the working group and developers worked closely together with the understanding that a neighbourhood plan was the best way  forward.

“I can’t help but think this is motivated by greed. It’s about building more big houses than smaller houses. Bigger houses are more profitable but not many people can afford them.”

Councillor John Stoves said he was “disappointed” by the application.

He said: “The mix of housing probably gives them a 30 per cent increase on profit. You have to wonder whether that’s the only reason they’re doing it.”

Martin Rose, who lives in Lambourne Road, said the emergency services had not requested the north-eastern access and claimed the developer had added it in case the main entrance became blocked.

He said: “Clearly they are trying to create a rat run through the village, which we’re trying to prevent.”

Councillor Leigh Rawlings said he feared that if planning permission was granted, Mrs Pelly may want to develop another field to the north of the site.

He said she had assured the parish council this was not the case but he believed other members of her family did not agree.

Cllr Rawlings added: “The housing mix on the current application is desperately different from the neighbourhood development plan. There is only a gesture of family housing.”

Carole Lewis, chairwoman of the parish council’s planning committee, said: “We are producing a neighbourhood plan and this should wait for it to be completed. The plan will be the voice of the village.”

Sonning Common Parish Council voted to recommend the application is refused.

Tom Smailes, planning manager for Linden Homes Thames Valley, said the company had “positively engaged” with the plan working group and had sought to fulfil its aspirations for the site.

It was initially agreed that the planning application would be made after the plan had been adopted in the autumn but the process had been delayed, so the application was submitted in December.

Mr Smailes said the proposals adhered to the allocation policies in the draft plan and would deliver a number of “significant” benefits to the community, including the transfer of four hectares to the parish council or other designated body for recreational use.

He added: “Given the considerable efforts that have been made to positively engage with the working group and comply with policies within the emerging plan, Linden is disappointed that the parish council is recommending refusal.”

The district council will make a decision by March 7.

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