Monday, 14 June 2021

Village can't sustain another 180 new homes says council

PLANS for another 180 homes in Benson have been lambasted by the parish council.

It says the proposed development on land south of Watlington Road is unsustainable because of its distance from the village’s main facilities and it is concerned about the impact of extra traffic.

The council also says that the estate would have a major impact on the visual amenity of residents in nearby Blacklands Road and Brook Street, saying their homes would be overlooked.

Members of the council voted unanimously to oppose the plans by developer WestWaddy.

The company already has permission to build 400 homes on farmland north of Littleworth Road owned by Ray Stiles. There would be 159 in the first phase of construction and 241 in phase two.

However, since permission was granted Cala Homes has submitted plans for 187 homes on the site, which would override the first phase.

The parish council said WestWaddy had failed to consider the impact of these developments and said that no public event had been held to allow residents to view the plans. Even so, there were 35 responses received from villagers and only one was in support of the development.

The council also questioned why, when an agricultural land assessment classified 30 per cent of the land as “good” or “very good” quality and the rest as “moderate”, it was still being given up for development.

It also pointed out that there was no mention of waste disposal, only a statement saying that the demand could be met, adding: “The foul waste water disposal is currently an issue in Benson with Thames Water admitting there is insufficient capacity.”

The council criticised a transport assessment, saying: “The report suggests people will cycle from the site to Cholsey to catch a train, which is utterly preposterous.” The plans have sparked several letters of objection from Benson residents.

Catherine Murray, of Castle Square, accused WestWaddy of being “opportunistic”.

She said: “I want this community to grow and develop in a positive manner and am not against new dwellings in principle. However, I am deeply concerned that this site is not the most effective or appropriate.”

Tara Mead, of Pensfield, said the development would have an “extremely adverse effect” on the village.

“The extra traffic, strain on resources, reduction of green space and expansion of the village to this extent is too much for a village of this size,” she said.

Alison Reid, of Church Close, said the plans should be refused on the grounds of overdevelopment, additional traffic, road safety and damage to quality of life.

The cumulative effect of the development and others should also be taken into consideration, she said.

Michael Winton, of Oxford Road, said: “This development is unnecessary and, if approved, will open the door to much larger developments.”

Benson could be “changed beyond all recognition”.

Mandy Jones, of Crown Lane, also raised concerns about additional traffic, saying she and her daughter already struggled to cross the roads safely with her grandchildren. WestWaddy says the development would comprise “high quality” family homes and “downsizer” bungalows, with up to 40 per cent of them “affordable”, around a central green space.

A new access off Watlington Road would be created and boundary hedgerows would be retained with trees and “planting enhancements” along the northern, southern and eastern boundaries.

The development would integrate “seamlessly” with the village and help to support businesses and amenities.

WestWaddy says: “A high quality landscaping strategy includes the planting of new native species and the use of vernacular materials to ensure the proposal integrates into the existing landscape character, maintaining the distinctive character of the village.

“The scheme is within the lowest flood risk zone and will implement best practice sustainable drainage methods. Improvements to the foul drainage network will ensure sufficient capacity for the proposals, in line with Thames Water’s requirements.”

Benson is facing the prospect of more than 800 new homes with pending applications and those already approved.

The parish council is preparing a “fast-track” neighbourhood plan designed to give the community more say over what type of housing it requires and where it should be built. A draft is due this month.

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