Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Residents accused of ‘controlling’ homes plan

ALLEGATIONS that a group of residents from an estate in Watlington are leading and controlling the town’s

ALLEGATIONS that a group of residents from an estate in Watlington are leading and controlling the town’s neighbourhood plan have been strongly denied.

The claim was made in a leaflet distributed by a group calling itself the Shadow Watlington Neighbourhood Plan Group.

It said on the front page: “Are you being hoodwinked by Watlington Neighbourhood Plan? Did you know that since May 2015 Watlington’s neighbourhood plan has been led by residents of Watlington’s Marlbrook Estate whose stated objective is to prevent development which will impact their own homes?”

Gill Bindoff, facilitator of the neighbourhood plan forum co-ordination group, denied the claims at last week’s parish council meeting. She said: “It makes the accusation that the neighbourhood plan is being led and controlled by residents of Marlbrook. That’s absolutely not the case.”

The leaflet reignites a row that stems back to last year’s local elections and annual parish meeting where it was claimed that three former parish councillors who resigned from the original group guiding the plan were placed under “enormous pressure” by residents of the Marlbrook estate.

Rhian Woods, Nick Hancock and Neil Boddington said they no longer wanted to be on the council because of what they claimed was “uncertainty” over the plan and the number of new houses being allocated to Watlington. The move set the plan back months.

The trio tried to withdraw from the election but only after the closing date for nominations, so their names still appeared on the ballot paper.

At last week’s council meeting, vice-chairman Matt Reid asked if anyone had put a name to the leaflet to which Mrs Bindoff replied they had, but not in writing.

She explained: “At the Saturday roadshow Rhian Woods and Neil Mitchenall came and spoke to me, and Rhian told me that the group is the original neighbourhood plan group.” She claimed at the council meeting  it also involved “two co-opted members” by the parish council who had left office.

Mrs Bindoff added that she’d gone through the various groups making up the neighbourhood plan forum to highlight how many members were from the Marlbrook estate.

The forum had made the following information public on the neighbourhood plan website:

• Parish council steering committee: six members, including two from Marlbrook

• Neighbourhood plan forum co-ordination group: eight members, including two from Marlbrook

• Development sites group: nine members, including three from Marlbrook

• Traffic group: 10 members, including two from Marlbrook

• Infrastructure group: six members, including one from Marlbrook

• Sustainability groups: 24 members, including three from Marlbrook.

• The housing group has a fluid membership.

The Shadow Neighbourhood Plan leaflet says that in a consultation carried out by the original team the most popular alternative route option was one to connect Pyrton Lane to Willow Close in the Marlbrook Estate.

But it claims in the current options being considered the idea of connecting on to Willow Close has been removed. It says that the list of housing sites included an additional plot in order to build a section of road, with more houses, in order to bypass the Marlbrook estate. Mrs Bindoff told members at the parish council meeting that she’d agreed with council chairman Ian Hill that the six questions raised in the leaflet had been answered on the neighbourhood plan website. One of the questions asked: “Why has a road connection to Willow Close been omitted from site options when this route was a clear favourite in consultation two?”

The forum responded on the neighbourhood plan website saying: “The responses to consultation two confirmed that the preferred route for a second road through Watlington was to the west. This has been taken forward by the forum and two alternative routes are being considered which are included in the roadshows.

“The strong objections from residents of Willow Close, Beech Close and Sycamore Close have been taken into account and a possible alternative route through site number 10 has been put forward. No proposals for development on site 10 have been received in recent months.”

A draft of the plan is due in August with the referendum set for spring. 

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