Thursday, 29 July 2021

Developer given consent for 240 homes in village

PLANS for 240 homes in Benson have been approved.

David Wilson Homes has been given planning permission to develop two pieces of land, one north of Watlington Road and The Sands and the other east of Hale Road, both north of the village.

Both sites have been earmarked for development in the Benson neighbourhood plan, which will go to a referendum on Thursday and names three sites for about 560 new homes.

The developer has agreed to build a section of the “edge road”, or bypass, to help alleviate congestion in the village centre.

The developments would have 40 per cent “affordable” housing, open spaces, children’s play areas and a community garden.

South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee was recommended to approve the application at its meeting on Wednesday last week after deferring the application for a site visit at a previous meeting. Jon Fowler, a memebr of Benson’s neighbourhood plan team, welcomed the decision.

He said: “I was a bit surprised at the timing with the district council planning committee holding the meeting two weeks before our referendum, which was a bit odd.

“Why would they not wait until after the referendum?

“I was very pleased that it got through because if it had not that would have seriously jeopardised our plan and the vision for the village.

“There was no option on the table to defer it so we had to make sure it was approved and, thankfully the committee supported the neighbourhood plan process, which is what swung it.

“It’s another hurdle we have overcome. The next one is the referendum when we have to make sure we get a significant turnout for and that people vote ‘yes’ to approve the plan.”

Benson Parish Council supported the application subject to the developer building, at its own expense, a section of the relief road through its development at the same time as the houses are built.

The council also wanted a commitment that no developments would proceed unless and until both the district council and Oxfordshire County Council were confident they had a common specification for the road plus sufficient guarantees and planning conditions to ensure that they could enforce delivery of the road within a reasonable period.

The council has said that if the road cannot be delivered as set out, then it would object to the development on the grounds of harm to the rural landscape setting of Benson and the Chilterns and North Wessex Downs Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the significant reduction of the open space separating Benson from Rokemarsh and the negative impact on traffic volumes.

There have been 30 objections from residents as well as Berrick Salome Parish Council, which said the decision should not be made until after the referendum.

The council claimed that if the application was determined before the referendum, it would make the vote “irrelevant” as all but one of the allocated sites will have already been granted planning approval.

Chairman Ian Glyn said the decision to approve the plans was “regrettable”.

“It should have gone through the referendum to see what the people of Benson actually thought,” he said.

“I think some people who are not affected by the current traffic will say it’s quite a big price to pay, this 50 to 60 per cent increase in housing.”

The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has said more homes in Benson would put extra strain on GP services.

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