Friday, 27 November 2020

Village couldn’t cope with 400 more homes

RESIDENTS of Benson have attacked plans for another 241 homes on the outskirts of the village.

RESIDENTS of Benson have attacked plans for another 241 homes on the outskirts of the village.

Graeme Dodd and architects WestWaddy already have planning permission for 107 houses and 52 retirement flats and bungalows on farmland north of Littleworth Road after winning an appeal.

Now they are planning to submit a second application for the additional homes, bringing the total to 400.

The developers held an exhibition of the plans at Benson parish hall on Friday night which was attended by dozens of villagers, many of whom were critical.

Chris Tappin, of London Road, said: “We all know we need housing but they’ve just taken it too far.

“The school’s overloaded now so where are all the children going to go? Benson can’t cope with it.

“There’s not one person in Benson who would agree with the size of this.”

John Reid, of Church Close, said: “Most of the village was opposed to the plan they got through the inquiry and now they are immediately asking for an increase. It’s just ridiculous.”

Jo Whittaker, of Oxford Road, claimed the exhibition was a “tick-box exercise”, adding: “They won’t listen because they didn’t listen last time.”

Margaret Randell, of Sands Way, said the extra traffic was a serious concern.

“Benson is just not up to taking a huge amount of building like this,” she said.

“The shop [Co-op] can’t cope, the doctors can’t cope and there’s no parking in the village — it’s just going to be swamped.”

Michael Winton, a parish councillor who lives in Oxford Road, said he was concerned that the drainage system wouldn’t be able to cope, especially when it floods.

He wife Morag added: “This is far too big. We were willing to accept the 150 and this would be another 250. Benson doesn’t want it.

“We don’t have the infrastructure — we don’t have the schools or the shops and the doctors’ surgery would be overrun.”

Councillor Tom Stevenson said: “I’m sure all they are doing is ticking a box saying ‘we consulted the parish’. It’s difficult to imagine anyone being in favour but at the same time unless the district council makes a stand it’s going to get through.”

Caron Spence, of The Moorlands, called the plans “absolute madness”.

“They would be accommodating nearly 1,000 people and 2,000 cars. Benson can’t cope with that many people.

“We have got empty properties in Benson and they should be sold first. Some of them are quite large and could be turned into flats.”

George Verdon, chairman of conservation group the Bensington Society, said a WestWaddy employee at the exhibition was talking as if the latest plans had already been approved.

He said his biggest concern was over access to the development from two points in Littleworth Road, which is currently one-way and already suffers from bottlenecks at one end.

Mr Verdon said that if the road was made two-way it would have to accommodate traffic from both Watlington and Oxford.

“We would like to see a major road going through the estate and linking through to the Watlington Road,” he added.

John Ashton, a partner at WestWaddy, said the development would help South Oxfordshire District Council meet the needs for housing in the district.

He said the first application went through the democratic process and the company was now engaging with the parish council and the community.

He said that Littleworth Road could cope with the additional traffic, adding: “The first phase made provision for additional infrastructure for highways and roads.”

Ray Stiles, who is Mr Dodd’s father-in-law and owns the 24.8-hectare field, said people were entitled to their opinions on the plans.

Mr Dodds added: “They should look at some of the positives here and not focus on the negatives. It offers sustainability and a future for the village. We need to put life back into that village.

“All the people who are for it, these are the ones that are always quiet.”

The development would include 40 per cent affordable housing.

WestWaddy says it would form a “natural extension” to the village and provide convenient access to the village via footpaths and cycleways.

It is offering to include a new shop “no bigger” than the Co-op and “generous” public green space, sports facilities and play areas.

There would also be a nature park and possibly playing fields for Benson Primary School.

The school’s headteacher Helen Crolla said she had not been approached by the developers.

“The proposed development would mean changes for the school and we will seek advice from the local authority, as appropriate,” she said.

“Any decisions by the school will be made in the best interests of the children, their education and their safety.

“The school is always happy to welcome new pupils but we would want to be reassured that the developers have plans to ensure the safety of children during construction and in the longer term. Many families walk to school along roads that are already busy.”

Mr Dodd submitted a planning application for 125 homes to South Oxfordshire District Council in March last year.

Almost 150 residents objected, as did the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The district council failed to make a decision on the application within three months so Mr Dodd appealed.

Just weeks before the appeal hearing, he reduced the number of proposed houses to 107.

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