Sunday, 14 August 2022

Housing plans given huge support by public in votes

CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after both Benson and Watlington’s neighbourhood plans were approved in referenda last week.

The documents identify sites for hundreds of new homes to be built over the next 15 years and make provision for an “edge road”, or bypass.

Now both have legal standing and will become part of South Oxfordshire District Council’s local plan, meaning they will have to be taken into account when decisions are taken on planning applications.

In Benson, 1,001 people voted in favour of the plan, with 74 against, a majority of 93.1 per cent. The turnout was 35 per cent.

In Watlington, 808 supported the plan with 191 voting against, a majority of 80 per cent. The turnout was 47.5 per cent.

Jon Fowler, a member of Benson’s neighbourhood plan team, said members were delighted by the strength of support. He said: “The plan’s adoption is the culmination of more than two years’ hard work by volunteers to reach this stage.

“Such a good majority is a validation of the work we have done.

“The plan is not just about housing and a relief road but protects and enhances Benson’s green infrastructure, sets design guidelines for new developments, provides new community facilities and will provide significant Community Infrastructure Levy revenue for the benefit of all residents.

“The focus now shifts to ensuring that the facilities and benefits committed to by developers and others are realised.”

Gill Bindoff, of the Watlington neighbourhood plan team, said: “The plan has been developed from the beginning as a community plan and that has produced a high level of support. After all the hard work it is good to know that it now carries full weight and that Watlington people will have a say about how their community grows.

“This is the end of the beginning. We’re getting planning applications in and we have to be absolutely sure they adhere to the plan.”

The Benson plan names three sites for 560 new homes. They are:

• North of Littleworth Road which could take 240 homes.

• Off Hale Road (80 units).

• North and north-east of The Sands (240 units).

The Watlington plan names three sites for at least 260 new houses. These are:

• Between the B4009 Britwell Road and B480 Cuxham Road, which could take 140 homes with a small amount of employment space.

• Off Pyrton Lane, which could accommodate 60 dwellings and could also provide space for Watlington Primary School or for Icknield Community College to expand.

• Off Cuxham Road and Willow Close, which could take between 38 and 60 homes.

Henley MP John Howell, the Government’s neighbourhood planning champion, said: “I congratulate both neighbourhood planning teams on their successful referenda.

“A lot of hard work by a large number of people went into these plans.

“They patiently dealt with local issues to provide genuinely local views of where housing should go in their communities and how the villages should be developed.

“In both cases I am particularly glad to have been able to provide advice at various stages of the plans’ development.”

Mr Howell added: “This was the first time that I had been able to participate in a referendum since I live in an area covered by one of the plans.”

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