Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Developer faces opposition to homes on war camp site

A DEVELOPER’S plans for two new houses on an abandoned Second World War camp in Sonning

A DEVELOPER’S plans for two new houses on an abandoned Second World War camp in Sonning Common have been opposed by the parish council.

Bennett Commercial, of Waltham St Lawrence, wants to build on the 0.69 hectares of land near Bishopswood Recreation Ground, off Gallowstree Road.

The site, which has a footpath running through it, backs on to Bishopswood Day Nursery and Pre-School and still has the ruins of buildings that were there during the war.

The company, which is run by brothers Roy and Steve Bennett, wants to build one three-bedroom house and one with two bedrooms either side of the path.

But the council says that this could lead to further development and has recommended the planning application is refused permission by South Oxfordshire District Council.

The developer says it want to do “something creative and imaginative” with the site, saying the houses would be of a high design standard with a “barn-like appearance”.

The existing access would be retained and a second one created and the hedgerows and trees would be kept.

A consultant’s report said the ruins of the former Bishopswood Camp had no heritage value.

Students from a London orphanage were moved to the camp before it was relocated to Camberley in 1945 and the site was disused by 1959.

Dawn Gillett, who runs the nursery, said she did not object to the plans in principle but did have some concerns.

She said: “As the children sleep in the nursery at all different times of the day, building noise would be a major factor for us.

“I would ask that the fence that runs alongside the new proposed access road be replaced by the contractors at a higher level as at its current height there would be a safeguarding issue with the proposed building overlooking the play area.”

She also asked that the area was cleared of any rats before building work started. “We have had problems in the past when a water main was relaid down the lane,” said Miss Gillett. “Our pest control contractor has informed us that rats will move on if their habitat is disturbed.”

Objector Robert O’Neill, who goes for walks in the area, said the site was a valuable area of natural habitat.

Mr O’Neill, of Upper Woodcote Road, Caversham, said: “This application is indicative of urban creep.

“The road and its urban features by this point have clearly transformed to a rural setting and traffic is allowed to flow freely away from the village boundary. Beyond the edge of the Sonning Common boundary is a highly valued area of open space actively used by the equestrian community. Further junctions on to this road would be liable to create hazards and impediments to all existing road users.”

The parish council said the site had been abandoned for more than 50 years and the development would not respect the character of the area and would have an adverse effect on its biodiversity.

Councillor Leigh Rawlins said once permission had been given to build houses there it would create pressure for more.

“Having established the principle it could come back,” he said. “You could almost see it would cause development along Gallowstree Road and eventually go all the way to the Greyhound and Gallowstree Common itself.”

The district council will make a final decision by May 30.

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