Saturday, 05 December 2020

Village opposes sixth bid to build on Lea Meadow

A SIXTH application has been submitted to build homes on Lea Meadow in Sonning Common.

A SIXTH application has been submitted to build homes on Lea Meadow in Sonning Common.

Developer Bewley Homes wants to construct 65 houses on the land for which it had a planning application rejected in December.

The company, which has appealed that decision, says the latest application is the result of discussions with South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

The site has been allocated 60 homes in Sonning Common’s draft neighbourhood plan, which is expected to go to a referendum this summer following public consultation which ended yesterday (Thursday).

Bewley Homes claims the council accepts that any environmental, social or economic harm could be resolved with conditions attached to planning permission.

In a planning statement, the company’s consultant Ken Dijksman says: “The council has formally considered and agreed the detailed features of the scheme in relation to its physical form, accessibility, design, visual appearance, ecological impact and sustainability relative to the village and the surrounding countryside and on all these points has found the scheme to be acceptable in planning terms.

“In particular the proposed footpath link between the site and Kennylands Road has been carefully considered to ensure there will be no security concerns for the residents of Essex Way through a combination of bespoke planting and lighting.

“The distances between proposed properties and neighbouring homes within Essex Way or Bird Wood Court are such that mutual privacy will be maintained.”

Police crime prevention design advisor Amanda Oak had expressed concerns about the previous application, saying the design of the estate would encourage crime and antisocial behaviour.

Mr Dijksmann says the application should be approved despite the neighbourhood plan not yet having been voted on as the district council’s planning policy states this is “not in itself a reason to refuse an otherwise sustainable development”.

He adds: “The single key objection to this development… is, in essence, that it is premature to the emerging development plan.

“In other words, the scheme is unacceptable because it has yet to be chosen, although there is no serious question or doubt as to its suitability as a development site.” But Councillor Barrie Greenwood, who leads the neighbourhood plan working group, said: “We believe the application is premature and should wait until the plan has passed referendum and has come into effect.

“We have consulted with hundreds of residents on our plan and it reflects their wishes.”

Residents have objected to the new application.

Jill Hutchinson, of Bird Wood Court, said: “The developer continues to ignore the neighbourhood development plan, which has identified the Lea Meadow site as suitable for no more than 60 dwellings. The housing is therefore too dense and does not address the identified needs of the village.

“The location of the cycle/footpath continues to present a security risk to both the existing and the new proposed properties, as has been identified by local residents and Thames Valley Police.”

Sally Blackwell, of Ilex Close, said: “There are minimal sports and recreational facilities in the village and increasing the population at Lea Meadow will greatly increase the number of car journeys to Reading and Henley to access their facilities on roads that are not fit for high traffic rates.”

In the last four years there have been five applications for the site for 105, 85, 55, 82 and 65 homes respectively.

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