Sunday, 18 February 2018

£5,000 appeal launched to fight developer over homes

A FUND-RAISING campaign has been launched to help pay for a legal battle with a developer over new homes in Sonning Common.

Gallagher Estates, of Warwick, has appealed after its application to build 95 properties in Kennylands Road was refused by South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee in March last year.

Part of the site is earmarked for 26 homes in the village’s neighbourhood plan, which was approved by residents in 2016.

The fund-raising campaign is being organised by David Winchester, of Kennylands Road, who hopes to collect £5,000.

This will supplement the £15,000 budgeted by the parish council to pay for Emily Temple, a planning consultant, and a barrister to represent it at the four-day appeal hearing in April.

The committee refused permission for the scheme on the grounds that it was contrary to the neighbourhood plan and would comprise too many homes.

Hundreds of residents attended the meeting to urge the committee to refuse the application.

Mr Winchester said: “No sooner was the ink dry on the village’s thoughtfully constructed neighbourhood plan than Gallagher Estates threatened to ruin it by submitting a new planning application to build 69 more homes had been agreed.

“This blatant disregard for our plan led to a successful campaign by the parish council and many residents to oppose the destructive planning application.

“Two coachloads of angry residents — more than 100 individuals — went to the meeting of the planning committee to persuade councillors to go against their planning officers’ advice and refuse the application.

“Unfortunately, the threat from Gallagher Estates has not diminished as the company is now appealing.

“The developer is determinedly pressing for 95 homes to be built on this important and beautiful green field separating Sonning Common from Reading’s environs. Gallagher Estates is employing a top legal team to attempt to force through its proposal and overturn the democratically expressed will of residents and district councillors.

“Sonning Common Parish Council is equally determined to protect our village and uphold our neighbourhood plan. The council is employing a planning consultant and barrister to help it make and present the case against Gallagher at the public inquiry.

“The parish council is lobbying for the inquiry to be heard at the village hall to make it easier for residents to attend and participate.”

Campaigners claim that if the appeal suceeds, the decision could set a precedent for other neighbourhood plans to be overruled.

The parish council has emailed and sent flyers to residents about the appeal, encouraging them to contact the planning inspectorate outlining their concerns about the proposed development.

Deputy parish clerk Ros Varnes has has carried out an assessment of the village hall to see if it is suitable for the hearing to be held there.

Speaking at a parish council meeting on Monday, she said there was enough room for 50 seats for members of the public and separate rooms available for the inspector and all the parties involved.

Councillors said they did not want the appeal to be heard in Henley due to the lack of a bus service. 

Councillor Carole Lewis said: “Getting to Henley is a challenge for our residents. If the hearing is held here then people will be able to pop in and out. We want people to be able to do that.”

Michael Knott, of Barton Willmore, of Reading, the developer’s agent, said: “The appellant will demonstrate that the development does not conflict with the development plan. Approximately 1.5 hectares of the appeal site, which comprises approximately 6.65 hectares in total, is allocated in the Sonning Common neighbourhood development plan for residential development.”

A final decision on the location will be made by the planning inspector.

Donations can be made online from next Friday until February 22 at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/sonning-common-says-no-to-gallagher

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