Wednesday, 23 October 2019

‘Wrong type of homes in the wrong location’

A NEW residential complex for the elderly near Shiplake shouldn’t be allowed because the village can’t take any more large-scale development, says the parish council chairman.

Fred Maroudas was speaking at a public inquiry into plans by the Retirement Villages Group to build up to 65 “extra care” flats and cottages on a field opposite the Haileywood Farm industrial estate off the A4155.

South Oxfordshire District Council refused outline planning permission in January, partly due to the impact on the surrounding countryside.

The company appealed, claiming the council failed to consider the growing demand for such housing and the impact would be outweighed by the benefits of the development.

Speaking on the first day of the hearing at Henley Rugby Club on Tuesday, Councillor Maroudas said the land was in a dangerous, isolated location and the development would put more pressure on Shiplake’s roads and infrastructure.

He said permission had already been granted for two developments at Thames Farm and the former Wyevale garden centre, both off Reading Road, with a total of 150 homes.

Cllr Maroudas said older villagers were already adequately served by the Lashbrook House care home and Soha’s Sidney Harrison House extra care facility, both in Mill Road, and the Tower House care home in Reading Road.

He said a survey of villagers showed 85 per cent wanted to preserve the “green gap” between Lower Shiplake and Shiplake Cross by the Retirement Village scheme would erode this.

Cllr Maroudas said: “Sixty-five residents have objected to this, a huge number for such a small village, while not one has expressed support. Our position remains clear: it is the wrong development and in the wrong location.

“It is not sustainable, it is not safe and would seriously and irrevocably damage the village’s rural landscape and character.

“We know surveys show a need to cater for the elderly but it doesn’t follow that Shiplake is the right location. This scheme does not provide an appropriate mix of housing, in particular affordable housing for young families, and would isolate its residents from the wider community rather than integrate them.

“Considering other schemes that were recently approved, we frankly feel battered and bewildered at the changes about to hit us. Sixty-five further units would be unmanageable.

“The proposal site is 1km from the village centre and residents would walk the narrow verge of a busy, intimidating trunk road with a steep slope. It’s no way to treat older members of our community.”

Christopher Young QC, for the developer and landowner Harjot Bal, of Woodley, said there would be little impact on infrastructure as services would be provided on site.

He said the impact would be lessened by the architectural style of the homes and the planting of trees and hedges to screen them  from the main road.

Mr Young said the parish council had successfully lobbied to increase the speed limit on that section of the A4155 from 30mph to 40mph, which conflicted with its concerns about road safety, while the district council had not sought to engage in the need for the scheme.

He added: “Development and change are always viewed negatively by some but the proposal demonstrates how the needs of older people can and should be met on an appropriate site on the edge of the village.”

The hearing before planning inspector Kenneth Stone was expected to finish today (Friday).

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