Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Anger at ‘ghost junction’

Anger at ‘ghost junction’

THE construction of 95 houses off Reading Road in Shiplake could be delayed by up to a year.

Taylor Wimpey, which is to develop 5.7 hectares of land at the former Thames Farm, was meant to have started work by May 22, exactly a year after the scheme was granted planning permission.

But now the company has applied for consent to extend this until May 21 next year.

Contractors have already cut down trees and hedges surrounding the site and carried out road improvements, including a new pavement and access road to the development, which will be called Regency Place.

The company’s agent Barton Willmore says an extension is needed so that a drainage strategy for the site can be agreed with South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority. Residents and councillors fear the land will remain unkempt for months when Taylor Wimpey was supposed to finish replacing vegetation at the edge of the field by February but it hasn’t yet started.

They don’t mind the housing being delayed but say they don’t want the replanting to be held up because the site is exposed.

David Bartholomew, who represents Shiplake on Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The community is completely indifferent to the construction being held up but very concerned about the possible impact on replanting.

“Taylor Wimpey has indicated that this would now not start until construction began, which is deeply alarming and the parish council is encouraging residents to submit a formal response to the application.

“I’ve already had numerous expressions of concern, saying the damage to the rural approach to the village is severe.

“It looks unsightly to have a ‘ghost junction’ which currently leads to nowhere and this large, demolished area of greenery is totally unacceptable.”

David Pheasant, vice-chairman of Shiplake Parish Council, said: “We don’t particularly want to see an open field with bits and pieces of development which have started but not finished.

“Replacing the vegetation was a condition of permission and we don’t want to see it put back any more than it already has been. The developer should stick to its original agreement.

“When driving past Thames Farm as you come out of Henley, you used to breathe out and relax because you felt like you’d entered the countryside. It doesn’t feel that way any more and looks more like the beginnings of a building site.

“A lot of people come to Shiplake to take advantage of the river and green spaces, especially since the coronavirus outbreak, and the approaches should be as scenic as possible.”

Barton Willmore says the extension should be allowed as the scheme isn’t considered to have an “urbanising effect” under planning guidelines and doesn’t fall within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or harbour special wildlife habitats.

Claire Engbers, the landowner, was orignally refused outline permission for the scheme but won on appeal in 2018 despite objections from residents and the parish council.

The following year, she was awarded full consent after submitting plans to address “reserved matters”, including drainage.

Taylor Wimpey said it needed to revise its drainage strategy after tests found ground conditions were different from those identified previously.

South Oxfordshire District Council said it was aware of residents’ concerns about the replanting and would ask the developer to finish this by the end of the next planting season.

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