Friday, 27 November 2020

Traffic fears grow as airfield considered for housing

CONCERNS have been raised about the impact of traffic on Watlington if a 3,500 home development

CONCERNS have been raised about the impact of traffic on Watlington if a 3,500 home development goes ahead on Chalgrove Airfield.

The airfield is one of seven sites which are being considered by South Oxfordshire District Council for building a single new strategic housing development between now and 2032.

The district council is required to make provision somewhere in the district for this number of homes, over and above its own need, in order to help Oxford City’s overspill.

Watlington is currently in the process of preparing a neighbourhood plan, with the town likely having to take about 200 homes.

Parish councillor Jeremy Bell, chairman of the neighbourhood plan steering committee, said: “It just sweeps everything off the table if it goes ahead.” He said if a relief road was proposed for Watlington a development at Chalgrove would generate more traffic.

Cllr Bell explained: “The Chalgrove decision makers say ‘oh, that’s great’ because now there’s a relief road in Watlington there’s a direct route to the M40.

“That will turn Watlington into an even bigger nightmare than you could ever have imagined at the neighbourhood plan stage.”

But Steve Harrod, Watlington’s representative on Oxfordshire County Council, said: “I don’t necessarily think it’s a done deal but it needs to be discussed further. I think you have to ignore it at the moment because it’s just a proposal.

“I’ve been led to believe that there will be plans put in place for considerable infrastructure — either a new motorway junction or a link to junction seven on the M40 to deal with the traffic.”

He said it was acknowledged that there was an “absolute need” for infrastructure between this “new Chalgrove” and the motorway.

Cllr Bell asked: “We can think of Chalgrove as a possible thing which has its own connection to the motorway and doesn’t all have to be fed through Watlington?”

Cllr Harrod replied: “That’s my understanding of things at present, yes. I’m afraid it’s too much up in the air at the moment to be able to have anything definitive.”

Cllr Bell said Watlington should remain in the same scale and character as it is currently. However, he added that when you looked at the pieces of land in the town “daisy-chained” together, at 25 houses per hectare, they could accommodate 1,000 houses.

Nine sites in Watlington have been put forward as suitable for housing developments. They were revealed at a series of roadshows on the town’s neighbourhood plan.

The sites, which were put forward by landowners and developers, are capable of taking up to 815 homes in total. This number is based on the minimum density in the district council’s core strategy and assumes the full area of land is developed. Four small sites were also put forward while two others offered are in the Pyrton parish so cannot be included in Watlington’s plan.

Cllr Bell added: “I think Watlington is going to be really worried when people start to realise what the effect of 1,000 houses will be. Our little Watlington is becoming highly pressurised.”

The meeting also heard that RAF Benson used Chalgrove Airfield for a “vital” part of its training programme.

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