Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Village faces hundreds of homes as another developer eyes up land

ANOTHER field on the outskirts of Benson is being eyed up for housing.

ANOTHER field on the outskirts of Benson is being eyed up for housing.

The plot of land between the A4074 and St Helen’s Avenue is next to a field where 150 homes are planned.

Archstone, which represents the owners of the site, is to have a meeting with the parish council later his month.

The company has not revealed how many properties are planned but says there would be a mixture of starter, affordable and family homes as well as sheltered accommodation for older people.

There would also be a community orchard, allotments and “amenity space”.

The move comes after developer Gladman distributed a leaflet to residents outlining its proposed development of the neighbouring land and separate plans for 400 homes on land north of Littleworth Road.

However, the site is next to the boundary of the RAF Benson airfield, which could prevent any development as South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, has raised concerns about safety and noise.

In an email to Benson parish clerk Pete Eldridge, Archstone’s planning director Jonathan Porter says: “We believe the site presents an excellent opportunity to provide a high-quality development which is close to the village centre and relates well to the existing settlement  pattern.

“The airfield provides an obvious defensible limit to further development, which is not the case of the proposed sites to the north of the village.

“We are aware of the current planning application for an additional 241 dwellings at land north of Littleworth Road, which would total 400 new houses in this location.

“This application is obviously looking to pre-empt the local plan process.

“However, we wish to highlight [our] site as a credible alternative if it is necessary to accommodate some additional houses in Benson through the local plan review (we believe it will be).

“Archstone promotes land with the potential to accommodate new homes alongside improved community facilities.

“We place an emphasis on engaging with town and parish councils from the outset to establish the priorities for the community and can shape the proposals to address local needs.”

Mr Porter said the district council’s landscape capacity study had concluded that the site had no “significant” constraints and the whole area was suitable for development.

The study also suggested that any plans for the land should be brought forward with those of the neighbouring field.

But Mr Porter said: “The sites are in different ownership, which makes this impractical. Notwithstanding this, due to their significant size and good access, we see no reason why they cannot be developed independently without compromising each other.”

The district council’s local plan “refined options” document says the two fields are underneath RAF Benson’s helicopter landing and take-off flight path.

It adds: “It is our view that housing here would place future residents at unnecessary risk of excessive noise and potential danger when there are other suitable sites available.”

Mr Porter said these concerns had been superseded by correspondence from the Ministry of Defence. He said: “The correspondence confirms that the MoD does not object to the principle of the development of the site, subject to the detail of the design to address the usual issues of counter terrorism, aircraft noise and bird strike management.

“We are engaging with MoD Safeguarding to ensure that these matters are adequately addressed.”

Benson Parish Council is in the process of producing a neighbourhood plan designed to give the community more say over new developments.

In the last year, plans by WestWaddy for 159 homes on land off Littleworth Road have been approved following a public inquiry and an application by the company for another 241 on the same site has been submitted.

The neighourhood plan is being developed by a team of parish councillors and residents. They are council vice- chairman Jon Fowler and councillors Michael Winton and Philip Murray and residents Frank Farquharson, Dave Rushton, Martyn Spence, Edel McGurk and Lorna Denby.

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