Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Campaigners appeal for ‘yes’ vote on housing plan

A CAMPAIGN has been launched urging residents to support Watlington’s neighbourhood plan in a referendum later this month.

WatYes, a group of residents, says that without a “yes” vote on June 28 the floodgates would open to sites not chosen by the community.

The group is delivering a leaflet to about 1,200 homes in the parish asking them to vote for the plan.

The document, which  has taken four years to complete, names three sites for at least 260 new houses, with 40 per cent of them “affordable”. These are:

• Between the B4009 Britwell Road and B480 Cuxham Road, which could take 140 homes with a small amount of employment space.

• Off Pyrton Lane, which could accommodate 60 dwellings and could also provide space for Watlington Primary School or for Icknield Community College to expand.

• Off Cuxham Road and Willow Close, which could take between 38 and 60 homes.

If the majority of voters support the plan it will have legal standing as it will become part of South Oxfordshire District Council’s local plan and will have to be taken into account when decisions are taken on applications by developers.

The plan also contains provision for an “edge road”, or bypass, to take traffic away from the town centre.

WatYes says that if the document is not approved there is a risk that the relief road will not be built before the houses so the problems of traffic congestion and poor air quality may not be resolved.

The historic town centre already suffers from heavy goods vehicles using it as a “rat run”, causing congestion and air pollution, putting pedestrians at risk on the narrow pavements and damaging the old buildings.

The group’s leaflet says the approved plan would mean more homes, of varying sizes, for local families and opportunities for Watlington’s young people to get on the housing ladder.

It would “preserve the special ambience of Watlington” and protect the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the rare chalk streams as well as creating greater biodiversity.

It would also prevent future development on green spaces, allotments and recreation grounds.

Another benefit would be to encourage new shops, retain existing ones, create new job opportunities and provide places for workshops and accommodation for small businesses and start-ups.

The leaflet says that without approval, there would be less protection of “precious” green spaces and the parish would only receive 15 per cent of the community infrastructure levy — contributions from developers — rather than 25 per cent.

Gill Bindoff, secretary of WatYes, said: “Work on the neighbourhood plan has been going on for a very long time.

“The last local opportunity for people to give their views was a year ago when a lot felt that was the last time they were going to be asked their views, not realising it led to a formal referendum. We want to make sure that as people get their polling cards they get the information about why the plan is important for Watlington and what, hopefully, it’s going to be able to achieve for the whole community.

“Athough we’re encouraging people to support the plan, the leaflet is to give them information about the details that are in it in terms of traffic and housing.

“The plan provides for the growth of the community over the next 15 years and we have been able to determine where we think houses should go and how best they should be delivered in order for new residents to feel accommodated in the existing community and for the new developments to mesh in as Watlington grows.

“The neighbourhood plan gives you more control over that.

“A ‘made’ [approved] plan gives the opportunity to have more say in how Watlington develops and gives us the chance to get some additional funding for the facilities we’re going to need for a larger community.”

The referendum area includes a number of properties in Pyrton parish to the east of Watlington.

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