Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Residents claim victory as homes plan is thrown out

PLANS for 30 new homes in Sonning Common have been thrown out.

South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee refused to grant permission to T A Fisher, of Theale, to develop 1.5-hectares of land off Kennylands Road.

Members ignored a recommendation of their own officers at a meeting in Didcot on Wednesday last week which was attended by scores of villagers opposed to the plans.

The residents protested outside before the meeting, holding banners and posters with messages.

The site is earmarked for 22 homes in the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan, which passed a referendum last year.

Opponents, including the parish council, said that 30 properties would be overdevelopment of the site and would undermine the work that residents and parish councillors had put into producing the plan.

They also argued that a scheme that size would spoil views of the neighbouring Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Councillor Barrie Greenwood, who chaired the plan working party, told the committee that if the development approved, it could set a precedent.

He said: “After detailed consultations with TA Fisher, we reluctantly agreed this site would be included in the plan. We settled on a figure of 22 homes, which reflects the sensitivity of the site because of its proximity to the Chilterns AONB and its possible impact on neighbours.

“This is a dense and very poorly-designed development in such a sensitive area. Rejection would send a strong message to the developers that they should work with the parish council to develop something appropriate.

“An increase of eight homes may not sound much but it’s huge in the context of this site.”

The committee also heard from Paul Mullin, who lives in Kennylands Road, and Will Hall, who represents the village on the district council.

Mr Mullin said the developer had “shown little regard for creating a balanced and attractive layout.”

Katherine Miles, for T A Fisher, argued that a limit of 22 homes was “unduly restrictive” with “no substantial evidence” to support it.

She added: “This proposal strikes the right balance between making the most effective use of the site while respecting the sensitivity of the area and will not harm the landscape.”

Planning officers said the development would not harm the Chilterns, nor cause road safety problems or affect neighbours’ quality of life.

But the committee voted against a motion to approve the application and then passed another one to reject it.

Members couldn’t agree on valid planning reasons for rejection but committee chairman Toby Newman, who abstained from voting, agreed to liaise with planning officers to decide the strongest reasons.

Afterward the meeting, Cllr Greenwood said: “We were relieved that the application was eventually turned down as there are problems with sustainability and spatial distribution.

“Although T A Fisher wanted a higher number, we did not consider it sensible. It would have been a 36 per cent increase over the allocation.”

The result marks a second victory for the parish council in defending the village’s neighbourhood plan, which outlines sites where 200 new homes should be built to meet Government targets by 2027.

In February more than 100 residents of the village attended a district council planning committee meeting where an application for 95 homes was refused.

Gallagher Estates had applied to build on another site off Kennylands Road, which is earmarked for just 26 in the plan.

This was unanimously rejected due to the impact on the Chilterns and the effect on traffic and amenities.

Cllr Greenwood said: “We feel this is a vindication of our plan and a victory for the democratic process. The majority of the committee felt our plan should be followed.”

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