Thursday, 13 August 2020

Retirement village to be decided by planning inspector

Retirement village to be decided by planning inspector

PLANS for a 106-bed “retirement community” in Shiplake are to be the subject of a public inquiry.

Retirement Villages Group, of Surrey, is appealing against the refusal of planning permission to develop a 2.65-hectare field to the east of the A4155 Reading Road, opposite the Haileywood Farm industrial estate.

The company has proposed a care home with up to 40 beds and 66 “extra care” units comprising 24 dormer bungalows and 42 extra care apartments as well as communal care facilities, including a gym, shop, hairdresser, bar and clubhouse.

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, said the development would urbanise the countryside and erode the gap between Lower Shiplake and Shiplake Cross.

It said the location was unsustainable as it would be too hard for residents to access local services and facilities and the scheme would not meet the council’s requirement for new developments to have affordable element of at least 40 per cent.

The company, which is working with the landowner Dr Harjot Bal, a GP from Woodley, argues these are not valid grounds for refusal.

It says a pavement could be built along Reading Road to connect the site to Lower Shiplake without the need to purchase land from a third party or narrow the carriageway.

The company says it has repeatedly requested a site visit from highways officers at Oxfordshire County Council to confirm this was possible.

But the county council still recommended refusal as the issue had “not been resolved”.

In a written submission to the Planning Inspectorate, which will determine the appeal, the company’s agent Tetlow King said: “At the time of determination, officers had all the information that could reasonably have been provided to demonstrate that a footpath was capable of being provided.”

It says the development would not harm the landscape as any negative impact can be offset through landscaping.

Tetlow King also claims the council’s insistence on an affordable provision is “without merit” and not based on an adopted development plan policy as the local plan is “time expired” and is invalid as the council does not have a five-year supply of housing land.

In fact, the current local plan runs until 2027 and the council is preparing another which will run until 2032 and the Government has reduced the housing supply limit to three years, which the council says it has.

When the plans were first put forward in 2016, they were opposed by Shiplake Parish Council and 75 residents who raised concerns including lack of infrastructure, the impact on wildlife and light pollution.

Shiplake parish councillor Malcolm Leonard said: “We’ve opposed this before and will continue to do so as we don’t feel this is the right location for a development of that size.

“It is in an extremely dangerous area with a lot of passing vehicles and we don’t believe anything can be done to offset that risk.

“Anyone who’s seen that road knows how hard it would be for someone in, say, a motorised wheelchair.”

The scheme was originally designed to include up to 172 beds but this was reduced following talks with planning officers.

It would cater for people with Alzheimer’s and related conditions and create the equivalent of up to 60 full-time jobs.

A date for the hearing has yet to be confirmed.

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