Thursday, 09 December 2021

Holiday cabins ‘would put blight on our rural village’

Holiday cabins ‘would put blight on our rural village’

FRESH plans for holiday cabins in Woodcote have been lambasted by parish councillors.

Marcellus Brown, from Harrow, wants to erect the four timber-framed buildings with hot tubs on half a hectare of land in Tidmore Lane, between Reading Road and the A4074.

Two cabins would have three bedrooms and the other pair would have two bedrooms. There would be one parking space for each cabin.

Mr Brown, the landowner, says the complex would benefit the local economy and has the support of a local pub and the county’s tourism organisation.

But councillors said the proposal was unacceptable as the village had nothing to offer tourists, with one stating it was the worst application the parish council had ever received.

A previous application for seven cabins was rejected by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, which said they would harm the character of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, affect neighbours’ quality of life and pose a road safety hazard.

A meeting of the parish council heard that the new plans were meant to address the issues raised with the first application.

Andrew Gray, a planning consultant for Mr Brown, said: “This is a minor application, not a major proposal. We’re reducing the number of holiday cabins from seven to four, so there is less development now.

“While the site is located in the AONB, there is policy support for tourist accommodation in the AONB, providing its distinct landscape character and key features are not unduly harmed.

“The previous application had the support of the [district] council’s economic development section, which demonstrated that the scheme would provide a series of social economic benefits and help to encourage the general public to access and enjoy the area.

“It would enable the public to enjoy the Chiltern Way and public footpath network.”

But Councillor Robin Peirce said: “The last application was totally unacceptable, so why should four be any more acceptable?

“This is outside the built development of Woodcote and there needs to be very special justification for any development outside the developed area.

“If this was an application for four small houses it would be just as totally unacceptable — the houses might actually be more attractive.”

“Woodcote has nothing to offer the tourist apart from the fact it is in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“If this kind of provision is needed for tourism, there are many other locations in South Oxfordshire that are much more suited.

“This is probably one of the worst applications that I have seen before the parish council in terms of putting a blight on the edge of Woodcote and I think we should make every effort to ensure this is refused.”

Councillor Geoff Botting said the application was virtually the same as the last one and called the cabins “effectively mobile homes clad in wood” which would be out of character with the AONB.

Councillor Helen Booker said: “What concerns me the most is the rather cavalier statement that the traffic could result in accidents.

“To me that shows… they don’t care. Well, we are residents of this village, we are local and we do care.

“We wouldn’t permit a 10-bedroom house on that site and this is 10 bedrooms.”

Julie Warner, who lives in Tidmore Lane, said: “The applicant has yet to prove he has rights to travel along Tidmore Lane with a motorised vehicle. It’s down to them to prove that they have permission, not to us to prove that they don’t.

“Access is also via my drive, which is jointly owned in trust by the owners of the two properties that serve the drive, Fields Cottage and Masseys Pightle.

“The drive is very narrow and part of the public footpath network. Any vehicles would pose a hazard to people using the footpath. Tidmore Lane has very little traffic because it’s a restricted byway and that is the way that we would like to keep it.”

Ollie Spero, from Goring, said: “I regularly use Tidmore Lane for running and cycling and believe that the traffic generated by this site would be hazardous for me and others who use this for the same purpose.”

Thomas and Melanie Saunders, who live at Masseys Pightle, have also objected to the application, saying: “The proposal would be likely to create additional noise, activity and disturbance.”

The South Oxfordshire branch of the CPRE, the countryside charity, says: “The site is unsustainable, being in the open countryside of the Chilterns AONB, well outside the built-up area of Woodcote village.

“There are few tourist services in the immediate vicinity and these are only accessible via a narrow restricted byway with no separate path for safe use by pedestrians and no lighting.

“It is most likely that the majority of journeys into and out of the site would be by car. The existing restricted byway would be unable to accommodate this considerable increase in traffic.

“The log cabins and associated domestic paraphernalia such as hot tubs would bring inappropriate development into this quiet part of the AONB.”

Gillian Walker, field planning officer at the Chiltern Society, says: “The proposed development of four units does not reflect the density or massing of local residential property and would change the character of the area.”

The Chilterns Conservation Board says Tidmore Lane is “deeply rural in its ambience”, adding: “The vehicular comings and goings would diminish the enjoyment of the AONB for walkers along the route.”

Experience Oxfordshire supports the application, saying it is “an exciting opportunity to significantly enhance the visitor offering in South Oxfordshire, actively encouraging visitors to explore other assets in the area and spend additional monies in the local economy”.

Chris Shelton, manager of the Red Lion in Goring Road, Woodcote, says: “It would help our local community and my restaurant and public house with more visitors and we could do with more footfall, especially at the moment.”

The parish council agreed to recommend the application is refused.

It said: “We do not believe that four holiday cabins constitute a unique or significant investment in the local economy nor that the insignificant increase in local expenditure justifies the damage to the landscape and character of the AONB locally.”

The district council is due to make a decision by November 19.

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