Sunday, 29 March 2020

Neighbours bid against council for old trout farm

TWO sets of neighbours in Benson want to buy a former trout fishery and paddock which the parish council is also bidding for.

The land off Brook Street, which measures almost four acres, has an asking price of £90,000.

The council has made an undisclosed offer as it is concerned about the amount of recreation land in the village when hundreds of new homes have been built.

But Julian and Jennifer Grove and Delano and Alison Bateman, who live next to the land, are concerned what will happen to it if the council’s bid is accepted.

Speaking at a parish council meeting, Mrs Grove asked why the council was willing to bid up to four times what the plot was worth.

Her husband said: “The field has had two horses in there for 20 years. Obviously, if it goes to the parish council it could be used for all sorts of activities.”

Mrs Bateman said she and her neighbours had bought their houses knowing the field was there, adding: “This is about wanting to protect the value of our properties.” Her husband said: “We’re right tight up against the fence. We used to put our hand out of the window and stroke the horses — that’s how close we are.”

Councillor Rob Jordan replied that the council had no intention of building houses on the land but did want to build a new scout hut there.

The current scout hut in Littleworth Road is almost 80 years old and no longer big enough to accommodate the growing numbers. That site is owned by the council.

Cllr Jordan said: “With all these developments going on nobody’s looking after the kids, nobody’s got their interests at heart.”

He added that a bridge would have to be built across two pieces of water to enable pedestrian access to the land.

Council chairman Bill Pattison said if the council was successful activities would be focused in the centre of the field.

Councillor Tom Stevenson suggested fencing off a buffer zone at either end of the field and planting trees to offer the residents some protection.

The council agreed that a group of councillors should have a meeting with residents.

After the meeting, Cllr Pattison told the Henley Standard the council had not offered “anything near” four times the asking price.

At a meeting earlier this year, former parish councillor Ian Leppard urged the council to make a substantial offer for the land.

He said: “Don’t miss this opportunity. You have got a chance to do something good.”

Mr Leppard said that several years ago the council was offered a field but it took so long debating what it would do with the land that the deal fell through when the landowner died.

“You have got a chance this time,” he said. “Don’t lose it by penny pinching.” The land, which is privately owned, is being marketed by Adkin, a firm of chartered surveyors in Wantage.

It says: “The entrance to the land is opposite Braze Lane via a field gate off Brook Street. There is an electricity substation close to the entrance which is excluded from the sale.

“On the northern boundary is an attractive pond which is fed by a chalk stream and is the remnants of the pond system of the trout farm.

“We understand that there were historically six ponds with a sluice gate system but for safety concerns the other ponds were filled in.

“The water is very attractive with mature trees, including weeping willow, framing the pond. The boundaries are a mixture of mature hedging and trees, stock-proof fencing and three-strand barbed wire fencing.”

The sale agreement would include an overage clause, meaning that in the event of development taking place within 30 years of the date of the sale then 35 per cent of the resulting uplift in value would be payable to the current vendor.

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