Saturday, 04 December 2021

Residents invited to comment on revised housing plan

A DRAFT of the revised Sonning Common neighbourhood development plan has gone out to public consultation.

This is despite uncertainty over the prospect of a retirement complex with up to 133 flats being built in the village.

The original plan, which passed a referendum in 2016, allocated five sites for 195 homes, as required by South Oxfordshire District Council’s local plan.

Those sites were Reades Lane (87 homes), Kennylands Road (48 homes on two sites), and Peppard Road (60 homes).

However, the neighbourhood plan group had to start revising the plan in 2018 as it lost its full statutory weight after two years.

The district council then allocated the village at least another 108 homes on top of the 195 as required by its own updated local plan. The draft now includes the additional allocation for which the working party considered a total of 11 sites before deciding that the Johnson Matthey car park was the most suitable for 20 new homes.

Development of the other 10 sites was deemed unnecessary because the remaining housing allocation could be achieved by Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge School’s proposal for a 50-home development on land off Reades Lane that it owns and 40 extra care flats that could be built off Bird Wood Court, where the Kennylands gym is located.

The excluded sites include Little Sparrows, a field off Blounts Court Road where Inspired Villages was granted planning permission for its “assisted living” complex in June last year following an appeal.

The district council has since applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the decision.

The draft says if the judicial review is refused and the retirement village goes ahead, then the allocations agreed by the working party will become “largely redundant and unnecessary”.

A public exhibition on the draft neighbourhood plan was held at the village hall on Saturday when 91 residents attended.

The parish council also plans to issue a flyer to all 2,000 households in the village this week to publicise the document and invite people to comment.

It will include a QR code which residents can scan with their smartphones to take them straight to the online feedback form or they can use the link on the parish council website. All comments need to be submitted by Wednesday, December 1. After that the working group will take them into consideration and an evaluation will be made available early next year.

Tom Fort, who chairs the village’s neighbourhood plan working group, said: “Inspired Villages has been a big black cloud over the neighbourhood plan, which made it problematic to produce and we weren’t able to do many of the original things we set out to do.

“So it has become a minimalist plan but still provides a level of statutory protection against future developments. 

“The public exhibition was pretty successful but it’s not easy to get people excited about something that doesn’t have a lot in it.

“There was a good turnout, which was quite encouraging and people had a lot of questions.

“We’ve asked everyone to fill out the feedback as we need to take the comments into account and send the draft off by December 10.”

Mr Fort resigned from the parish council in July, saying he felt “responsible” for the appeal decision.

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