Sunday, 19 May 2019

Villages happy after victory in homes fight

VILLAGES are celebrating after successfully campaigning against a proposed housing development on the outskirts of Reading.

They welcomed the decision by a planning inspector to reject an appeal by Gladman Homes against the refusal of planning permission for 245 new homes north of Emmer Green.

Sonning Common, Kidmore End and Rothefield Peppard parish councils were among several that jointly opposed the plans.

They claimed that if the farmland between Peppard Road and Kiln Road was developed it would put the villages at risk of being “swallowed up” so they became a suburb of Reading.

The land, which is owned by the Phillimore Estate, is in Eye and Dunsden parish and South Oxfordshire district and not Reading borough.

Planning inspector Nick Palmer, who held an inquiry in September, upheld the decision by South Oxfordshire District Council to refuse consent.

He said the development would “erode” the open setting of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and harm the visual effect of the landscape.

He also disagreed with the developer’s assertion that the council had not secured enough land to meet the demand for housing, saying that in fact it had exceeded build targets.

Leigh Rawlins, a Sonning Common parish councillor and member of the Campaign Against Gladman in Eye and Dunsden group, said: “The application was opposed by all the communities of South Oxfordshire and Reading.

“If it had proceeded, it would have set a vast precedent. This application was for 245 homes but the Phillimore Estate controls about 100 times more land than this site represents.

“The villages of Sonning Common, Kidmore End parish and Eye and Dunsden parish were in the front line for being swallowed into Reading if unlimited sprawl had been allowed.”

The campaign group paid for a barrister who put forward the parishes’ case at the hearing alongside the district council.

Mr Rawlins said: “Gladman and their client could orchestrate a great army of paid professionals to argue their case. The value of farmland multiplies by about 100 times if it gains residential planning permission, hence the incentive.

“This is therefore a seminal victory over speculative development and an important re-establishment of respect for democracy and local plans. The inspector recognised the importance of this landscape and its role for both Reading and South Oxfordshire.

“Gladman’s contention that housing that neither Reading nor the district council needed should go next to Reading to somehow fulfil alleged needs in Didcot and Oxford was ridiculous and quite properly quashed. The Government’s policy is for ‘the right homes in the right places’. This site was never the right place.”

Jeni Wood, who chairs Peppard Parish Council, said: “The council is pleased and relieved to hear a studied response from the inspector citing, very clearly, the reasons for his decision.

“The facts are there in bricks and mortar — build targets have been exceeded for three years.

“Our case was crowd-funded by local people who really care about the impact of overdevelopment and encroachment in their area, which is in the AONB.”

Gladman Homes declined to comment.

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