Saturday, 28 November 2020

Councillors fear ‘domino effect’ from developers

PLANS for 100 new homes in Watlington could lead to a series of other similar applications,

PLANS for 100 new homes in Watlington could lead to a series of other similar applications, a parish councillor has warned.

Jeremy Bell, who chairs the neighbourhood plan steering committee, admitted that the document currently being compiled was in a “quite precarious” position.

He was speaking after Providence Land submitted an application for outline planning permission to develop 14 acres of land between Watlington and Pyrton, off Pyrton Lane.

Cllr Bell said: “The risk is that this will precipitate a domino effect of planning applications.”

The could result in hundreds of new homes being “forced” upon Watlington.

“I don’t think Watlington has been made aware of that risk,” said Cllr Bell. “I don’t think people are really aware that’s what we’re facing.”

There is also growing concern in the town about plans for 3,500 homes on Chalgrove Airfield, about six miles north.

Councillor Steve Harrod, Watlington’s representative on Oxfordshire County Council, said there had been about 7,000 responses to the proposals and these would be analysed and the results released, probably next month.

The airfield is one of seven sites being considered by South Oxfordshire District Council for a new “strategic housing development” to be built by 2032.

Councillors in Watlington are concered about the impact on traffic volumes and the roads infrastructure.

Cllr Harrod said the Chalgrove development was the district’s “silver bullet” solution to identifying enough land to meet housing demand.

The district council, the planning authority, has admitted that it has failed to identify enough land across South Oxfordshire to meet housing demand for the next five years, which means new sites must be considered to make up the shortfall.

Cllr Harrod said that if the airfield scheme was approved then the council would be able to demonstrate it had a five- year land supply and developers would be discouraged from trying to build on other sites not earmarked for development.

But he said that Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, had said the current road network would not cope with such a large development.

Parish councillor Tony Williamson said that traffic would “simply be pushed through” Watlington.

Cllr Bell said: “This will probably go through without any particular thought as to the consequences of increasing the through-traffic in Watlington.”

Meanwhile, the parish council has agreed to let the neighbourhood plan forum co-ordination group meet developers, including Providence Land.

Forum facilitator Gill Bindoff said there might be “things we can discuss with them that are not in the outline planning application”.

Vice-chairman Matt Reid suggested involving representatives of Pyrton parish as the land was within its boundary, adding: “I think we need to tread very carefully.”

He was supported by Councillor Rachel Huckvale.

Mrs Bindoff said Pyrton was working on its own neighbourhood plan and it had the opportunity to meet developers but she was happy to invite the parish’s representative to Watlington’s meetings.

“These are information sharing meetings and completely without prejudice,” she said. “They are not making any comments of any kind on the decision which both parish councils will make.”

Cllr Bell said it was a good idea to meet with developers, adding: “The more we can glean from the planning applications that are about to be made the better.”

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