Thursday, 17 June 2021

Housing hearing could be postponed

A PUBLIC inquiry into an appeal over plans for 120 houses in Benson could be postponed.

It follows a request by John Slater, the independent examiner appointed to inspect the village’s neighbourhood plan, which is due to go to a referendum in the spring.

Architect WestWaddy was refused permission to develop land south of Watlington Road by South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee on the grounds that it would impact on the landscape, rural setting, agricultural land and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The company appealed and the inquiry is due to begin at Benson parish hall on Tuesday.

But Mr Slater wants the hearing delayed until after the publication of his report. Henley MP John Howell has written to Sajid Javid, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, explaining the request, which will be considered by the Planning Inspectorate.

Mr Howell said the neighbourhood plan had made “significant progress” and Mr Slater had reviewed the representations, including one submitted by WestWaddy about the appeal site, which was excluded from the document.

However, he had also published questions and comments last week to which responses were required with 21 days.

Mr Howell continued: “This is likely to be a matter of a week or so after the proposed date of the public inquiry.

“In the light of this, the examiner is requesting that the inquiry is postponed for a short time until after the publication of his examination report.

“Then the appeal process will have greater clarity as to the position about the neighbourhood plan, based on his published recommendations.

“Clearly, at this point, the examiner is making his request in an effort to provide greater certainty to the inspector in terms of the extent to which the neighbourhood plan 
examination will be a material consideration to the appeal.

“Further, the neighbourhood plan should be a material consideration in the inspector’s determination of the appeal, especially if the examiner’s report is published prior to the inspector’s decision letter. Conversely, any appeal decision on the site will be of significance to the decisions made on the plan.”

Mr Howell said South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, supported the examiner’s request.

The Planning Inspectorate has been sent a similar request by Eversheds Sutherland International, the law firm acting on behalf of the Benson neighbourhood plan group in the appeal.

It says a brief postponement would be “reasonable and appropriate” for the examiner’s report to be completed before the appeal.

The group says that if the appeal is successful it would have “serious” consequences.

The land is owned by Ray Stiles.

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