Friday, 27 November 2020

Council wants ‘fast-track’ plan to control development

A FAST-TRACK neighbourhood plan is being pursued by Benson Parish Council.

A FAST-TRACK neighbourhood plan is being pursued by Benson Parish Council.

The council wants more control over new housing and has acted just weeks after a developer announced plans for 241 new homes on a site where it already has planning permission for 159.

A council meeting heard last week that a plan could be completed in as little as nine months but members were sceptical about such a timeframe.

Graeme Dodd and architects WestWaddy have permission for 107 houses and 52 retirement flats and bungalows on farmland north of Littleworth Road.

Plans for the second phase of development, which would bring the total to 400 homes, went on display last month and an application is expected to be submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council before Christmas.

Parish council vice-chairman Jon Fowler told colleagues that the district council’s planning officers had suggested a neighbourhood plan was the best way of mitigating further development.

He said a consultant would help prepare the plan with a steering group and the cost could be recouped from the district council.

Councillor Rob Workman questioned how realistic the timeframe was even with a consultant helping.

Cllr Fowler replied that the timeframe wasn’t  “particularly realistic” but added: “Even if the neighbourhood plan hasn’t been to a referendum and been accepted by the village, if you have got further along the process of producing one it has weight at any appeal.”

Councillor Philip Murray said it was important to “de-couple” the plan from the Littleworth Road development. He said the council should hold conversations in “good faith” with developers and make it clear that it wanted to have control of development “generically”.

Cllr Fowler replied that the council had a “completely open mind” about the latest application.

Dave Rushton, a former parish councillor who now leads a traffic advisory group, claimed a second Littleworth Road development would lead to an extra 600 to 700 vehicles in Benson and this was a “serious issue” for the village.

He said two access points to the estate on Littleworth Road would not be sufficient and a new attempt should be made to have a £4million Benson by-pass going from the BP garage near the Elm Bridge roundabout, possibly across Hale Road and joining the B4009 near Braze Lane.

Mr Rushton said the group also wanted to discuss the provision of road crossings and parking with the developers. WestWaddy says the development would help the district council meet housing needs and insists that Littleworth Road can cope with the additional traffic.

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 Benson via footpaths and cycleways.

It is offering to include a new shop “no bigger” than the village’s Co-op store 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.

Mr Dodd, whose father-in-law Ray Stiles owns the 24.8 hectares of land, has urged residents not to look at the negatives of the developmemt.

He said: “They should look at some of the positives here... it offers sustainability and a future for the village.

“We need to put life back into that village.”

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