Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Housebuilder would ‘gift’ community hall to village

BENSON is set to have a new, improved community centre thanks to  a developer.

Cala Homes plans to include the facility in the second phase of its 241-home development north of Littleworth Road.

It would be known as the “Community Hall for Benson”.

Cala was originally proposing a single-storey building but the parish council asked for it to be made bigger in order to cater for the village’s wide range of community groups.

These include the scouts and guides, who currently meet at their hut in Littleworth Road but need more space as they have waiting lists.

Now the company has agreed to build a one-and-a-half storey building following negotiations with the parish council and has submitted an amended planning application.

Council chairman Bill Pattison told a council meeting that the village badly needed a new community centre but that Cala’s orginal proposal was “ inadequate”.

The new building will cost almost £300,000 but Cala says it will underwrite most of the cost with the council having to contribute £50,000. The original proposal would have cost the council up to £150,000.

In addition to the community centre, Cala has agreed to build a skate park.

Councillor Philip Murray said: “Basically they are going to do it as a gift, if you like, for enabling us to move forward.

“They get our support so it goes through quickly and it’s not delayed. This is 240 homes. You can work out the net cost — every day is costing them a lot of money. Essentially, we have got the things we wanted.”

But Councillor Michael Winton said he was still unhappy that a proposed shop was not included in the amended application submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council.

Cllr Pattison responded: “It’s in the neighbourhood plan that they do not want additional competition to the village centre to protect it and the retail outlets there.

“The planning officer agreed we could have no retail outlet and it would not have an effect going

Cllr Winton called for the discussion to be deferred as he’d only received a paper prepared by Cllr Murray an hour before the meeting.

Cllr Murray said he had spent the day working on the council’s response.

The council agreed to recommend that the application is approved with only Cllr Winton voting against.

The land is one of the sites earmarked for development in the Benson neighbourhood plan, which passed a referendum in June.

Meanwhile, the meeting heard from the village’s representative on the district council that she would vote against the authority’s draft Local Plan if it includes Chalgrove Airfield among the sites earmarked for development.

The document, which will be applicable until 2033, will be debated again on December 20 after councillors voted against the draft document at a meeting in April.

Councillor Sue Cooper said she was opposed to Homes England’s plans to build 3,000 homes at the airfield.

She said: “I’m very much against having Chalgrove as a strategic site. I don’t think it’s a very sustainable location. The roads around Chalgrove are dire and there’s not a railway in sight.”

The issue has been complicated by the refusal of a tenant business at the airfield to relocate. Ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker has a lease until 2063.

At April’s meeting, district councillors voted to reject the Conservative cabinet’s recommendation to adopt the plan by 17 votes to 10 with three abstentions.

This sparked the resignation of council leader John Cotton, who has since been replaced by Councillor Jane Murphy. Fourteen of Cllr Cotton’s Tory colleagues refused to support the plan.

The council decided to reassess all the housing sites put forward and amend the document.

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