Friday, 06 December 2019

Courtyard resurfacing wrangle continues

THE trustees of the historic almshouses in Goring Heath have been granted planning permission for resurfacing the central courtyard despite opposition from the parish council.

However, they must still obtain listed building consent for the work, which has already been completed, or it could be deemed unlawful.

The almhouses were built in the 18th century and are Grade I listed.

In April 2014, the trustees removed two cobbled sections of the courtyard walkway and replaced with pebbles set in sand and cement with latex-bonded gravel.

They said this provided a smoother surface than the cobblestones which were a trip hazard for the elderly residents.

However, they didn’t seek planning permission as they didn’t realise it was necessary and a member of the public complained.

The trustees submitted a retrospective planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council in June.

The parish council objected, saying the materials used were inappropriate, and were supported by the Chilterns Conservation Board and the Chilterns Society.

The district council says it cannot take enforcement action because the trustees say the work was carried out more than four years ago and opponents can’t prove otherwise.

However, it says the trustees must still obtain listed building consent since they had done so when work was carried out in the courtyard in 1992.

In a report, planning officer Rob Cramp says this will have to be considered separately from the application for planning permission.

The parish council said the materials used for the work were “appropriate for a shopping centre, not a Grade I listed building”.

The trustees said the residents were worried about hurting themselves on the old courtyard whereas the new surface was water absorbent and “non-slip”.

Several of the pensioners wrote letters of support.

They also said the almshouses at Ewelme used a similar surface.

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