A DEVELOPMENT of 65 homes in Sonning Common has been approved despite opposition and before the
A DEVELOPMENT of 65 homes in Sonning Common has been approved despite opposition and before the village&rsquos neighbourhood plan has gone to a referendum.
An application by Bewley Homes to develop Lea Meadow, next to the Herb Farm off Peppard Road, was approved by South Oxfordshire District Council&rsquos planning committee.
The 3.7-hectare site is recommended for 60 homes in the neighbourhood plan, which is not expected to go to a referendum until September after being approved by an inspector last month.
The development will comprise a range of homes from one-bedroom units up to five-bedroom houses, 40 per cent of which will be “affordable”, in line with district council policy.
The properties will be built around an open space with a play area.
District council officer Carolyn Organ recommended the application for approval despite the neighbourhood plan not being finished and opposition from Sonning Common District Council and residents.
About 45 villagers raised objections, including the impact of traffic, too many large homes, security concerns in nearby Essex Way and the development being premature to the neighbourhood plan.
In her report, Ms Organ conceded the application had caused “great objection” in the village but said it was more or less in line with the requirements of the emerging neighbourhood plan.
She said: “I consider that the proposal balances the evidence as a whole appropriately and provides an acceptable variety of types, sizes and tenures of homes that responds to the character of the area.”
Ms Organ also referred to two recent planning appeals, one in Wallingford and one in Chinnor, which were granted by inspectors.
She said: “Both inspectors assessing these appeals concluded that we should be applying a higher housing target as set out in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment, which means delivering more housing than is currently planned for in our adopted core strategy.
“The outcome of these two appeal decisions means that the core strategy housing supply policies are given less weight in our decision-Â making.
“Sustainable development should now be permitted unless there is planning harm that outweighs the benefit of providing new housing.”
District councillor Paul Harrison said the decision should have been postponed until after the referendum on the neighbourhood plan. He said: “It should not have been decided. What&rsquos the point in allowing something before seeing if democracy wants to see it go one way or another?
“The question the public will be asking is why it was allowed to be decided before the referendum. This way is undemocratic.
“I understand officers are coming under pressure because of the five-year land supply.”
Councillor Barrie Greenwood, chairman of the village&rsquos neighbourhood plan working group, said: “The real disappointment was allowing it to go through outside the neighbourhood plan.
“What we wanted was the appropriate outcome once we had the referendum result.”
Stephen Trenwith, land director at Bewley Homes, said: “Working closely with the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan team, Bewley Homes has received approval for its LeaÂ Meadow development following one revised application in late 2015.
“The project will consist of 65 units, providing both private and affordable homes for the local community and will begin construction in late 2016.”
Since 2009 Lea Meadow has been the subject of six applications for homes ranging from 55 to 105.
Over the years, hundreds of residents have raised concerns about development of the site.