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‘Garden grabbing’ threatens rural hamlet
Published 10/02/14

KINGWOOD Common could be turned into a housing estate if backland development is allowed, according to residents.

Terence Mullins spoke on behalf of his neighbours before an application by Ian Bell, of Stoke Row Road, to build a four-bedroom house in his garden was approved by South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee.

Dr Mullins told the committee that the development would set a dangerous precedent and other residents would be tempted to sell their land.

He said: “Anyone in the common will be likely to proceed with splitting off their gardens because they are quite large plots. It will make them a lot of money — probably over £1 million — and will turn Kingwood Common into an estate effectively.”

Mr Bell’s new house will be built between his exisiting home and a neighbour’s property and will require a new access across common land.

A number of residents objected to the proposal and 10 people attended the committee meeting.

Jim Housego, who lives next door, said he had not objected to Mr Bell’s two previous applications to extend his property but the new house was “not acceptable” as it would overlook his home and result in a loss of light.

Neighbours Ian and Fiona Nugent said they “strongly objected” to the plans and claimed Mr Bell lived abroad.

The couple said: “The property has been let for the past few years and is at present unoccupied. The proposed development simply constitutes a money-making project almost certainly before they sell both properties and continue to live elsewhere.”

Sheena Wooding added: “This area has been subject to great pressures over the last few years where several houses have been demolished and rebuilt to a much greater size, detracting from the rural atmosphere.” Peppard Parish Council chairman David Hammond said Mr Bell’s house had doubled in size over the last 12 years and an annexe was added in 2006.

“The proposed new house will fundamentally change the character of this part of Kingwood Common and will, more importantly, act as a precedent for further adverse development,” he said.

“Housing in Kingwood Common is sparse, scattered and unobtrusive. Mostly, it is not visible from any of the open spaces. This development will create a line of houses that will be very visible and create an urbanised appearance right on the edge of the open space. We do not accept that this will preserve the landscape quality of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

Dr Mullins said Kingwood was a rural hamlet with homes surrounded by mud and stone tracks rather than roads.

He said: “This house would be the first thing people see as they come into the common against the wood and we feel the density of the housing is not appropriate for the character and appearance of the area. We’re not against development but we do feel a smaller house may have been appropriate.”

Dr Mullins said the ridge height of the roof would make the building taller than the existing two-storey property and the house would overlook neighbours’ gardens.

Andrew Bateson, a planning agent representing Mr Bell, said a similar proposal had been rejected in 2006 but planning policy had changed since then.

He said infill development was now “perfectly acceptable” where there were no “important public views” to retain.

“The proposed dwelling would not appear cramped as the plot size is quite large, similar in area to many of its immediate neighbours,” said Mr Bateson. “There would be no outward extension in Kingwood beyond its existing developed limits.”

Paul Harrison, who represents Sonning Common on the district council, said he had received an unprecedented number of emails and letters about the application.

He said: “It is a very pretty copse of houses before you go into the wood. I do not feel this is a good place to put another house.”

Councillor Jeni Wood said there would always be objections when new buildings were proposed in such a beautiful setting but added: “I can’t see how that one house will make any difference to how the settlement is seen from the woodland.”

Councillor Malcolm Leonard said: “Nobody likes change and you can understand all the neighbours feeling not too keen on it but with today’s planning laws I can’t see any real objection.”

Published 10/02/14

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