Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Plans for 120 homes thrown out by minister

PLANS for 120 homes in Benson have been thrown out after a planning inspector was overridden by the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government.

Ray Styles wanted to develop land south of Watlington Road and inspector John Felgate, who chaired a four-day public inquiry in February, had recommended the appeal be allowed.

But secretary of state James Brokenshire, who was asked to decide the appeal, has said it should be dismissed because of the conflict with the village’s neighbourhood plan.

This passed a referendum last month and does not allocate the site for development.

The plan names three suitable sites for 560 new homes and says that developers would be expected to fund sections of a bypass in order to alleviate congestion in the village centre.

The council feared that if Mr Styles was allowed to go ahead with the development it would harm the neighbourhood plan and jeopardise the delivery of the bypass.

In a letter from Maria Stasiak, decision officer at the government department, she said Mr Felgate gave “significant weight” to the conflict with the main policy within the Benson plan on where new houses should be built and the creation of a bypass.

She said: “Given that the Benson neighbourhood plan now forms part of the development plan…the Secretary of State affords this conflict very significant weight.”

“The Secretary of State considers that there are no material considerations which indicate that the proposal should be determined other than in accordance with the development plan. He therefore concludes that the appeal should be dismissed and planning permission be refused.”

However, Mrs Stasiak said that the Secretary of State gave “moderate weight” to the benefits of the provision of on-site open space and play areas and the enhancement to the public transport facilities.

Mr Brokenshire was called upon because the proposal went to appeal at the same time as the village’s neighbourhood plan reached its final stages.

It followed a request by Henley MP John Howell to the former Secretary of State Sajid Javid after he was concerned about the appeal hearing taking place at the same time as an independent examiner was looking at the neighbourhood plan.

Jon Fowler, of Benson’s neighbourhood plan team, said: “I think it vindicates the work that we have done on the plan and it shows how important neighbourhood plans are.

“It was worrying that the inspector was going to allow the appeal and I think had we not had it called in that would have presented a serious risk to our plan.

“We are extremely pleased that this appeal has been thrown out and we have now got to get on with delivering the policies and the work that’s in the plan.”

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