Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Sites for 365 homes agreed in return for village 'bypass'

FOUR sites with a total allocation of 365 new homes have been put forward in Benson’s neighbourhood plan.

The plan, which a team of volunteers has spent more than a year compiling, is designed to give residents more say over what type of housing should be built and where.

However, Benson is facing the prospect of almost 1,100 homes, which would almost double the size of the village, under planning applications already approved or pending.

More than 350 people attended a meeting in the parish hall on Friday where the sites were revealed.

The neighbourhood plan’s favoured sites are mostly to the north of the village, where the developers have agreed to pay for a new road from the A4074 to the B4009 to help alleviate traffic congestion in the village centre. They are as follows:

l Two plots on farmland between Hale Road and the B4009 Watlington Road, which it says could accommodate 260 homes. An application for that number is due to be submitted by David Wilson Homes.

l Farmland to the west of Hale Road, which it says could accommodate 80 homes. Thomas Homes, of Thatcham, has submitted an application for 84 homes for this site.

l A site at St Helen’s Avenue, south of the village, which it says could accommodate 25 homes. However, Gladman Developments has already applied for permission for 130 homes on land off the road.

Another application has been made by architects WestWaddy for 180 homes on another plot south of Watlington Road which has not been included in the plan. The company already has permission to build 400 homes on farmland north of Littleworth Road.

Jon Fowler, vice-chairman of the parish council and a member of the Benson neighbourhood plan group, said David Wilson Homes and Thomas Homes had agreed to build the new road through both of their developments at their expense.

In addition, David Wilson Homes would provide new allotments space and hand over land to the north of the site to the parish council as a “green buffer” between Benson and the neighbouring village of Roke.

Councillor Fowler said he recognised that 360 houses on top of the 400 already approved was difficult for residents to accept but it represented the best way of Benson securing the new road, effectively a bypass.

At the end of the meeting a show of hands by the audience showed the vast majority were in favour of the draft plan. Cllr Fowler said this gave the plan group a sound basis on which to finalise the document.

After the meeting, he said: “It’s a difficult message for people to accept that we are going to have to take this number of houses but it was really pleasing that people understood why.

“In my view it’s making the best of a bad job. I say that because the village as a whole didn’t want this degree of housing.”

Cllr Fowler said the nightmare scenario would be if Watlington got a bypass but Benson didn’t, adding: “You would then have all that extra traffic coming from Watlington through the village.”

He said the Benson road would take heavy goods vehicles and the traffic generated by the proposed development of 3,000 homes at Chalgrove airfield, which he said would have “a big impact” on Benson.

Cllr Fowler said that to complete the final section of the new road so that it joined the A4074 would need the agreement of Ray Stiles, who owns the land north of Littleworth Road, for which WestWaddy has permission.

However, WestWaddy’s plans to develop land south of Watlington Road had not been included in the neighbourhood plan because there was “no benefit” to the village.

Meanwhile, the parish council has criticised Gladman’s plans.

The company has submitted a duplicate plan after South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, failed to make a decision by the deadline of September 30 on its first application, made in May. It has also submitted an appeal over the original application,

The parish council says Gladman has not provided enough evidence to show that noise and vibration could be sufficiently mitigated.

It says the road network could not cope with the extra traffic that would be caused by the development when all the other pending applications are taken into consideration and Gladman has not considered this.

Gladman says the development would feature “a broad range of dwellings and house types, offering a mix of market housing from first-time homes to larger family homes” and 40 per cent would be “affordable”.

It says: “The overall vision for the site is to provide a distinctive and high quality place... [and] responds to current conditions and future housing needs in South Oxfordshire.”

There would also be public open space, footpaths and cycle links.

But the council says the company’s claim that the choice of housing would meet the needs of the area is “worthless” as there is no detail about the types of housing to be provided.

It also contradicts Gladman’s claim that the site is “species poor”, saying it has a badger sett and various species of countryside butterfly including gatekeeper, marbled white, ringlet and meadow brown.

The council continues: “The foul drainage analysis states there would be capacity issues and an upgrade required to the Preston Crowmarsh pumping station, which require further analysis.

“There are too many unknowns to give permission for this development.

“It should also be noted that this is a departure land for police, air ambulance and RAF helicopters. Building here will close this as an air exit, so will impact on station time for the police and ambulance helicopters in particular, potentially putting lives at risk.”

The district council has until Wednesday to decide this application.

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