Monday, 21 August 2017

245 new homes thrown out due to lack of school places

CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after plans for 245 homes were thrown out.

Gladman Developments has applied for outline planning permission to build on three fields between Peppard Road and Kiln Road on the edge of Emmer Green.

But this week South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, said it intended to refuse the application due to a lack of primary school places.

The application had been opposed by several parishes, including Sonning Common, Kidmore End, Binfield Heath and Shiplake, as well as residents’ associations in Emmer Green and Reading Borough Council.

The land is in Eye and Dunsden parish, which includes Dunsden, Playhatch and Sonning Eye and has only 140 houses,

David Woodward, chairman of the Campaign Against Gladman in Eye and Dunsden said: “This is a tremendous victory for all those who have written with their objections and for the dedicated campaigners from local parish councils and residents’ groups who have been working away at opposing the scheme since it was first lodged in the autumn.

“The countryside we care about will continue to be threatened and CAGE will remain vigilant.

“An appeal on the grounds for refusal is now possible but at least campaigners have some much-deserved breathing space.”

Mr Woodward, who is also the chairman of Eye and Dunsden Parish Council, added: “We’d been working quite hard to get the education issue to the top of the agenda as the grounds for the refusal. We’re pleased that the hard work that some of the volunteers have put in has paid off.

“The people of Emmer Green that directly overlook the site will be particularly delighted because it means they retain the rural outlook which they value so much.

“South Oxfordshire wouldn’t have refused it if they didn’t think there was a very strong case on appeal and that’s quite important.”

Councillors had warned that the population of Eye and Dunsden parish could triple under the plans and feared it could be the thin end of “an unstoppable development wedge”.

The decision to refuse permission has been approved by council leader John Cotton and will be taken under delegated powers, meaning that it will not need to go to the planning committee.

A letter from Joan Desmond, a major applications officer at the district council, said: “Reading Borough Council has advised that the local schools in the immediate vicinity are at capacity therefore there would be an objection in principle to development that would increase demand on school places that cannot be mitigated.

“The borough council has also advised that it does not have a duty to build new places for children located outside the borough therefore children from within the proposed development would not get a school place before the children of Reading residents living within the catchment.

“Oxfordshire County Council has advised that the nearest Oxfordshire primary schools to the development (within approximately three miles) include Sonning Common, Kidmore End, Shiplake and Peppard.

“The above schools are on constrained sites and are unable to expand to meet the needs of this proposed development.

“The county council therefore objects to this proposed development on the grounds there is insufficient primary school capacity.

“The application was discussed at a recent cabinet member briefing and the leader has agreed with the recommendation to refuse the application on the lack of primary school capacity.

“It is therefore intended to refuse the application on that ground under delegated authority.”

District councillor Paul Harrison, who represents Sonning Common ward on the district council, said the decision made sense.

He said the development would have been on the edge of South Oxfordshire, so a boundary change would be needed, adding: “Effectively you’re extending the Reading urban area into Oxfordshire.”

He said there would also be more pressure on Reading, Caversham and Sonning bridges, which were already very busy.

Cllr Harrison added: “We want 60 per cent of our new housing in Didcot and 40 per cent in the rest of the district. We’re certainly not getting that and it needs to be addressed at officer level and with various developers.”

Gladman, which is based in Cheshire, said the development would form a “logical” extension to Emmer Green.

But residents said would it place intolerable pressure on public services and create serious congestion on surrounding roads.

Emmer Green Residents’ Association conducted a survey in which 113 out of 169 respondents were opposed to the development, while only five were in favour.

It said that schools and GP surgeries in Emmer Green and Caversham were already struggling to cope with demand and they would not benefit from the developer’s statutory contributions as they are in Reading borough, not South Oxfordshire.

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