Friday, 28 February 2020

Residents angry at plans for ‘retirement village’

RESIDENTS are angry at plans for a “retirement village” in Sonning Common.

Senior Living and Investfront have applied for planning permission to develop 4.5 hectares of open pasture land off Blounts Court Road opposite the Johnson Matthey Technology Centre.

The land was not selected as suitable for development in the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan, which was approved in a referendum in 2016.

The development would comprise 133 units — 57 assisted living units and 16 care units — as well ancillary care facilities, gardens, a community space, green space, landscaping and 143 parking spaces.

A separate application has been submitted for an additional 60 assisted living units.

The companies say the development is needed because of the aging population in Oxfordshire, where the number of people aged 85 and above is expected to increase by 127 per cent over the next 20 years.

They say older people account for 55 per cent of GP visits, 68 per cent of outpatients and 78 per cent of patient bed stays.

They also say the scheme would free up family housing and benefit the NHS by reducing hospital admissions. It would provide 69 full-time jobs.

Residents have opposed the plans, saying the development would affect the rural nature of the village.

Stephen Hammond, of Blackmore Lane, said: “I strongly object to this proposal on a number of grounds.

“The proposed development is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The neighbourhood plan has comprehensively rejected this site for development.

“A development of this size would have significant adverse impact on wildlife. Given the location — on top of a hill — it would overlook the village and be an unsightly blight on the landscape

“Little, if any consideration, has been given to the village infrastructure which is already under stress. Given the age demographic of the village, there is a need for affordable housing but not for retirees but younger families.”

Jonathan Edney, of Peppard Road, said: “I have lived in this village for many years and continue to fear what is being done to it with every passing year and the ever-growing number of development proposals.

“I have two young children, who I walk to school every morning down what is already an overcrowded, dangerous, speeding car-filled Peppard Road. I then have to attempt to reverse out of my drive into the same road in order to get to work — often taking my life in my hands as the volume of cars has now reached such a point.

“Please don’t increase this threat to myself, my children and all the other many residents down this key road. For the sake of my children, I would beg this application is not approved.

“The roads and infrastructure cannot support a development of this size and it would put young lives at risk. This may sound dramatic but you try living on the main roads through the village these days.

“Furthermore, I look out on to some of the fields where this development is planned for. At what point will we draw a line on destroying the natural beauty that exists in our village?

“The difficulty is that in the eyes of the villagers this is priceless — there is no value that can be put on it. Sadly, it seems that the council increasingly ignores the feelings of the people who actually live in Sonning Common and are happy for outsiders to come in and make a quick buck.

“Are we happy to continue to the point where there isn’t a spot of green land left in the village?

“For the sake of the everyone that lives in this fantastic and beautiful village, please don’t give it all away so someone can buy their next Porsche SUV and keep little Johnny in private school.” Nicola Berry, of Maple Close, said: “Our local amenities are already under immense strain. There are no school places, our GP surgery is inaccessible for the residents of the village now and to add the additional pressure of a retirement village population to this would be ridiculous.

“In addition, the narrow roads in the village are clogged with traffic and to add all these additional homes would be crazy.

“Why are these developers allowed to submit plans in an AONB? We live in a village in the countryside, not a town. We are surrounded by fields and developers just want to build on these.”

Sonning Common Parish Council’s planning committee will discuss the application on Feburary 3.

Councillor Tom Fort, who chairs the council’s neighbourhood plan revision working party, said: “We are assiduously attempting, with reasonable hope of success, to meet what we regard as the local need in the revised neighbourhood plan.

“The site is not in the neighbourhood plan as it currently stands and is in an AONB site. There has already been a considerable amount of local opposition to it.”

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, is expected to make the final decision by March 23.

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley or email letters@henleystandard.co.uk

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