Thursday, 19 July 2018

Garden centre homes plan supported by parish council

PLANS to demolish part of Woodcote Garden Centre to make way for nine houses have been

PLANS to demolish part of Woodcote Garden Centre to make way for nine houses have been recommended for approval by the parish council.

Michael Hill, who owns the business off Reading Road, is seeking planning permission to demolish greenhouses and other nursery buildings on a 2,426 sq m plot on the eastern half of the site.

These would be replaced by three detached, two semi-detached and four terraced homes while the garden centre would continue trading from smaller premises.

The parish council supports the scheme in principle as the site is earmarked for nine dwellings in Woodcote’s neighbourhood plan, which passed a referendum two years ago.

However, it supports South Oxfordshire District Council’s recommendation that a terrace of four dwellings should be repositioned so the gardens face south.

Clare Golden, the planning authority’s design officer, said she couldn’t support the plans as they were because the gardens face open countryside to the north, which was against policy.

She said the new properties would compete for light with trees and people entering from the east would face a bare wall, which was “not acceptable at the gateway into the development”.

It was a “missed opportunity to create a feature of visual interest”.

Ms Golden also said the current layout left several small scraps of green land instead of one large open space and planting was needed to screen the site off instead of a simple fence.

Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, has also objected, saying the planned parking spaces would be too small and several of them would too near a boundary wall.

It wants more information about revised parking arrangements for the garden centre and has concerns over the “incremental development” of the site.

The parish council says these issues must be overcome before the scheme is given consent.

It says the look of the houses should be revised as no properties in Woodcote are entirely timber clad so they would be out of character.

Three neighbours have objected, saying the access arrangements are unclear.

The neighbourhood plan says drivers should only enter and leave via the Chiltern Rise site to the east.

However, the garden centre plans show a “shared surface” entering from the west off Reading Road and do not say whether cars would use it.

Councillor Geoff Botting,deputy chairman of the parish council, said there would be concrete bollards so only pedestrians could get through this way.

He said a separate planning application for 25 units at Chiltern Rise, submitted by the Oratory School 10 months ago, had been delayed by legal talks between the independent Catholic boys’ school and the district council but would soon be decided.

The talks centred on financial contributions towards community infrastructure to offset the impact of development.

Cllr Botting said: “An agreement has been reached and documents are awaiting signatures so I understand that should be decided any minute now.

“There were some concerns surrounding traffic and access at Chiltern Rise, which is why we went back and worked those out before we recommended approval.

“Because it was so closely linked with the garden centre proposal, I think the district council was also waiting for that application to arrive so it could check the two matched up.”

In August last year, Whitchurch Hill tarmac firm Hazell & Jefferies requested permission for 19 homes at the former reservoir in Greenmore. This was earmarked for 16 units in the neighbourhood plan.

It is understood that the scheme is now on hold so that technical studies of the site can be carried out.

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