Tuesday, 01 December 2020

‘Design of new estate would help criminals’

THE design of a new housing estate in Sonning Common would encourage crime and antisocial behaviour,

THE design of a new housing estate in Sonning Common would encourage crime and antisocial behaviour, claims an expert.

Bewley Homes wants to build 65 homes on a 10-acre site near the Herb Farm, off Peppard Road.

Sonning Common Parish Council had recommended that the planning application is refused on the grounds that it is not in line with its neighbourhood development plan, there would be too many houses and it’s unclear what type and mix of homes would be built.

Now Amanda Oak, a crime prevention design advisor for Thames Valley Police, has criticised the plans.

She said: “I have concerns that the proposed layout would create a neighbourhood where crime and disorder and the fear of crime would undermine quality of life and community cohesion.

“The site looks to be excessively permeable as access is afforded around the entire perimeter.

“I cannot see any garden/rear access gate marked on the plan and it seems to show that rear access alleyways will be provided for many of the houses.

“Footpaths providing access to the rear of houses can leave them vulnerable to crimes such as burglary. It is recommended that the applicant designs out rear alleyways where possible.” Ms Oak said an alleyway from the north corner across the front of plot 65 would lead the public through a private area.

“This alleyway provides a legitimate reason for a criminal to cut through and also a suitable escape route and allows a criminal to enter the area without being seen,” she said.

Ms Oak was also concerned about an isolated footpath leading from the development to Kennylands Road, particularly as it was near the rear of houses in Essex Way, where the majority of residents are elderly.

“Isolated footpaths increase the fear of crime,” she said. “Footpaths to the rear of properties have been proven to generate crime.”

Ms Oak said she would want the developer to achieve a “secured by design award accreditation”.

This is a police initiative, established in 1989, that supports the principle of designing out crime in new developments.

Keith Whitelaw, who lives in Bird Wood Court, said the issue of security between Lea Meadow and the back gardens of the homes in his road had not been addressed.

He said: “It is not just the new residents of Lea Meadow who will be using the new footpath/cycle path, it will be anyone, including people from outside the village.

“This represents a very great security risk for Bird Wood Court residents as at the moment access to the rear gardens is extremely difficult for potential intruders and the security risk to these homes is negligible.”

Carole Lewis, who chairs the parish council’s planning committee, said members had been unanimous in recommending the application is refused.

She said: “The committee discussed a number of concerns including site security, safety, particularly of young people, environmental impact, layout and mix of properties and the development’s fit within the village environment.

“Ms Oak raised several issues that I can assure you the committee will look at in detail. This is an important and invaluable document which will assist us in the future.”

In the last four years three applications to develop the land for 105, 85 and 55 homes respectively have been submitted and then withdrawn after objections.

Ken Dijksman, agent for Bewley Homes, did not respond to requests for  comment.

South Oxfordshire District Council will make the final decision on the application.

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