Saturday, 28 November 2020

Vote on neighbourhood plan set for September

SONNING Common’s neighbourhood plan is set to go to a referendum in September.

SONNING Common’s neighbourhood plan is set to go to a referendum in September.

An independent examiner has checked the document and says that only minor changes are needed before it can be put to the public vote.

An exact date for the referendum will be set by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

If more than 50 per cent of voters support the plan, it will become legally binding and the district council must take it into account when deciding planning applications. 

The plan working party was commended by examiner Nigel McGurk for the “comprehensive and robust” process of land allocation and the assessment of future housing needs.

In August the number of proposed homes in the document was increased from 138 to 193 on the recommendation of the district council which said the village’s allocation was likely to increase.

Mr McGurk said: “It is clear that, in providing for comfortably in excess of 138 homes, the neighbourhood plan has taken a positive approach to providing for future housing growth in the light of relevant information.

“In addition, by providing for considerably more housing than that originally required by South Oxfordshire District Council, the plan takes into account relevant information relating to future housing need.”

A total of 170 surveys were completed by residents to say which sites they would choose for development.

There were also 37 meetings with landowners, agents and developers and nine meetings with residents living close to earmarked land.

The sites and allocations are as follows:

• 60 homes at Lea Meadow. 

• 50 homes on land off the back of Ashford Avenue.

• A recreation area next door, north of Chiltern Edge School. 

• 37 homes on land currently used as a Chiltern Edge School playing field.

• 26 homes at Kennylands Road.

• 20 homes behind Kennylands Road.

Mr McGurk said: “From reading through the evidence presented, it is clear that the plan-making process, including the pre-submission consultation periods, was extremely well-publicised.

“It is clear that plan-makers went well beyond legislative requirements to actively engage with local people. Comments were proactively sought over a sustained period of time.”

He recommended a number of changes, including deleting a policy on parking standards and improving the wording of a policy on open spaces to avoid misinterpretation. Mr McGurk said: “Using hyperbole — exaggerating for the purpose of emphasis — as worded, the policy could provide a positive planning framework for the development of a nuclear power station or an animal waste incinerator in Sonning Common, so long as a football pitch accompanies the  development.”

Councillor Barrie Greenwood, who led the working party, said: “The inspector is saying that we need to make sure the policies are tight enough to make it clear that development is going to be recreation only.”

He thanked the other members of the group for their work and residents for engaging in the consultation process, as well as Philip Collings and Ros Varnes at the parish council. He said: “It has been a team effort with individuals working on different parts of the plan. We’re delighted in particular that no changes have been recommended for our site allocations or the number of homes.

“The report notes the amount of consultation that has gone into the plan. The examiner was impressed with that.

“He comments that all the hard work and preparation with the meetings we had shows the plan truly represents the residents.”

Councillor Leigh Rawlins, a member of the working party, said the report was broadly positive, adding: “There are a few tweaks but that is entirely normal.”

The working party wil meet district council officials to discuss the changes.

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