Thursday, 14 December 2017

Plans for nine homes at garden centre approved

PLANS to demolish part of Woodcote Garden Centre and build nine houses at the eastern end of the site have been approved.

Michael Hill, who owns the 2,426 sq m plot off Reading Road, has been granted planning permission for three detached and six semi-detached dwellings plus 22 parking places, two for each property and four for visitors.

Four of the houses would be “affordable” with rents or purchase prices fixed below the market rate in line with South Oxfordshire District Council’s quota of 40 per cent for new developments.

The development will still be accessible on foot using the old garden centre entrance next to the Londis shop.

But this will be off-limits to vehicles, which will enter from the east via land at Chiltern Rise owned by the Oratory School.

This plot is set to have 25 homes built after the school was granted planning permission in April last year.

Mr Hill and the independent school have agreed to share access arrangements for road safety reasons as the old garden centre entrance has poor visibility on to Reading Road.

Mr Hill submitted his application in February last year but it has undergone multiple revisions.

Planning officers at the district council, the planning authority, felt the original layout didn’t make best use of the space. The garden centre will continue trading despite losing an outoor display area.

Woodcote Parish Council supported the scheme as the site is one of up to seven earmarked for development in the village neighbourhood plan. Woodcote has been allocated 76 new homes in order to meet Government targets.

Two neighbours objected to the plans, saying the design was not sympathetic to surrounding properties.

The planning officers recommended approval despite the site being in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, arguing that the negative impact was “acceptable” and was outweighed by the benefits.

They said: “This site would provide for much-needed housing, including affordable housing.

“The proposal... would not be detrimental to the character and appearance of the site, would not be unneighbourly and would not result in conditions prejudicial to highway safety.

“When considered against the development plan as a whole, the proposal would represent a sustainable form of development and boost housing numbers.” Meanwhile, plans to build new two properties on land off Beech Lane in Woodcote have been granted on appeal.

Last year Philip Sparks was refused permission to demolish the house and stables at Goats Gambol, a field off the lane, and build a five-bedroom house and three-bedroom bungalow in their place.

The district council’s planning committee said this would affect a neighbouring property and adversely impact upon the AONB.

However, their officers recommended approval, saying that although the land wasn’t in the neighbourhood plan, it should be regarded as a “windfall” site that would help meet housing quotas.

Mr Sparks argued that the committee should have followed the officers’ advice.

In 2015, developers Jumquest and Beenlore were refused permission to build 10 homes at Goats Gambol.

l Building new homes in Woodcote would not reduce rents or property prices, says the neighbourhood plan steering group which is updating the document. It says that demand for housing is so high across the country that no amount of development would have a significant effect. However, the revised plan can require that most new homes are relatively small and therefore suited to young people and families struggling to remain or settle in the village.

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