Friday, 15 February 2019

Benson could receive £2m from levy on developers

BENSON could receive £2 million for improvements in the village.

The money would come from the Community Infrastructure Levy, which is paid by developers in return for being granted planning permission.

Almost 800 homes are set to be built in Benson and the village will need to ensure it can cope with the increase in population with infrastructure improvements and more amenities.

The figure was revealed at a council meeting where members agreed to set aside £50,000 from CIL money already received to put towards a new community building.

Cala Homes has agreed to build a new community centre in the second phase of its 241-home development north of Littleworth Road.

The developer proposed a single-storey building but the council asked for it to be made bigger in order to cater for the village’s wide range of community groups, including the scouts and guides, whose hut in Littleworth Road is not big enough to cope with demand.

Now, following negotiations, the company has agreed to provide a one-and-a-half storey building providing the council contributes £50,000, about a sixth of the total cost. Councillor Philip Murray said £50,000 felt like a “a snip”.

He added: “We should get an external valuer so we get value for money but I don’t think that will be difficult to do.”

Speaking about the CIL money still to come, council chairman Bill Pattison said: “There are many things it could be used on and many things it can’t be used on.

“It will be sensible for individual councillors to have a think and come up with ideas for infrastructure and submit them to the office. I think we need to start getting this list together.”

Councillor Stephen McCann suggested asking residents for ideas and Councillor Teresa McTeague said: “We should have some sort of public event where people can listen to the ideas.”

John Reid, of Benson Table Tennis Club, said users should be consulted. The club currently meets at the youth hall in Oxford Road but might move to the new community centre. Mr Reid said: “I really want to make sure that the people who might use this have a say in its design.

“I’m particularly concerned about the table tennis because I think we may want to move there. It’s not very good for table tennis at the youth hall.”

Cllr Murray said he believed that seven or eight groups had been consulted, although the table tennis club was not among them.

Councillor Pattison said that Cala would come back to the council with a final design for the building.

Meanwhile, a developer has appealed after its plans for 19 homes in Benson were thrown out.

Victoria Land was refused outline planning permission to develop horse paddocks next to The Orchard, off Braze Lane, in November.

South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee said the proposal was contrary to local and national planning policy and it was concerned about the potential impact on the character of the area.

The application had been recommended for approval by planning officers despite objections by neighbours and two parish councils. In June David Wilson Homes was granted planning permission for 240 properties on an adjacent site, which is seen as crucial to the delivery of the proposed Benson bypass.

Benson Parish Council said more properties were not needed to help fund the road and would conflict with its neighbourhood plan, which was approved in a referendum in the summer.

It also said the development would harm the landscape and cause “settlement coalescence” between Benson and Rokemarsh and it would not integrate with the village.

Berrick Salome Parish Council said the site was high quality agricultural land in open countryside and the application was “entirely speculative”. There were 13 letters of objection from residents.

Victoria Land said the development would be of a mix of homes of between two and five bedrooms, with 40 per cent of them being “affordable”.

A design and access statement said the application was for a “sensitively designed” residential development.

The appeal will be dealt with by written representations rather than a public inquiry.

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