Monday, 21 June 2021

Village faces 820 new homes after developer changes plan

A DEVELOPER wants to build 187 homes on a site in Benson where planning permission for 159 has already been granted.

Cala Homes wants to add 28 properties to the proposed development on farmland north of Littleworth Road, which is owned by Ray Stiles.

This increases the potential total of new properties in the village to more than 820.

Architect WestWaddy secured the original planning permission to build 107 houses and 52 retirement flats and bungalows on the site after winning an appeal.

Cala has revised the plans by scrapping the retirement homes and increasing the total number of ordinary homes to provide more “choice”.

The compnay says this would result in only a “slight” increase in traffic so it has not changed the proposed vehicle access from Littleworth Road.

However, Benson Parish Council vice-chairman Jon Fowler said he was concerned at the change in the plan.

He said: “My initial reaction is that it’s disappointing that the retirement bungalows have been removed.”

“One of the outcomes of the housing needs survey that we undertook for the neighbourhood plan was that there was a real need for retirement bungalows and the ability for people to downsize.

“Cala has increased its plan from 159 to 187 houses — why would they do that? The reason is, I would suggest, they are looking to maximise their return on the development. Certainly Benson itself doesn’t need another 28 house on that site.”

In its application to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, Cala says it is seeking to “improve and add value” to the development following extensive discussions with planning officers. The company says: “Officers confirmed the principle of residential development was established through the extant permission and that they were not opposed to the removal of the retirement accommodation and an increase in dwelling numbers subject to design and highway-related considerations.”

Cala considered two other layouts — one with 193 homes, which provided 40 per cent affordable housing, and the other with 179 homes.

It finally settled on 187 properties, which was agreed with the council's urban design officer. This total includes 75 affordable properties.

Cala says: “An important variation from the extant permission is the increase in units from 159 to 187. This additional provision would promote housing supply and choice.

“This provides a high quality design while providing a more efficient use of the site. The proposal would generate a slight increase in traffic compared with the extant scheme but it is considered that the approved access would be suitable to accommodate the anticipated trips.

“In addition, the removal of the retirement accommodation would reduce the number of larger service vehicles accessing the site.”

Meanwhile, Thomas Homes, of Thatcham, has earmarked 3.5 hectares of farmland to the west of Hale Road for a development of 84 homes.

WestWaddy has planning permission for another 241 homes, also on land north of Littleworth Road, and is sizing up another plot to the south of Watlington Road behind homes in Blacklands Road for 180 homes.

Gladman Developments has applied to build 130 homes near Benson airfield.

The parish council is preparing a “fast-track” neighbourhood plan designed to give the community more say over housing developments and a draft is expected to be ready in January.

The district council is set to make a decision on Cala’s latest plan by early February.

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