Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Developer in new bid to have underground filler plan approved

Developer in new bid to have underground filler plan approved

A DEVELOPER is bidding to have the legal right to inject land where it intends to build 95 homes with grouting.

Taylor Wimpey found the land at Thames Farm, off Reading Road, Shiplake, to be unstable so it devised a plan to fill weak spots in the bedrock and prevent sinkholes.

But South Oxfordshire District Council, which has granted permission for the development, said the company needed separate consent for the grouting work as it was not included in the original application.

Opponents claim the grout might contain fly ash, a by-product of burning coal to generate electricity, and fear this could leak into an aquifer running beneath the site which supplies the village’s drinking water.

They also say the grouting work is inappropriate in a rural area and the developer should consider building fewer houses on the site.

Taylor Wimpey maintains it has a legal right to carry out the work and has now applied for a certification of lawfulness from the council.

The council’s decision should resolve the issue of whether the grouting work requires a separate planning application.

Vicky Fowler, a planning lawyer representing Taylor Wimpey, says: “Site remediation is a necessary and reasonable step that is ancillary to the permitted development.

“There is no plan or planning condition controlling what site remediation is permissible on the site.”

Taylor Wimpey has also submitted a construction management plan for the site for approval by the council. This includes plans for the grouting work.

However, the council says it will not consider this until after it has made a decision on the certification of lawfulness application. If that is refused, it will also reject the construction management plan.

The grouting work would make the land at Thames Farm impermeable to water, so a drainage solution is required.

However, there is currently no approved drainage strategy as Taylor Wimpey withdrew its third application in October after the district council made it clear that it would reject it.

Emma Bowerman, principal major applications officer, said the proposal was unacceptable due to a possible flooding risk to neighbouring properties and she would not be comfortable approving a drainage scheme until the dispute over the groundworks had been resolved.

The Thames Farm Action Group, a group of residents who opposed the drainage strategy, is to write to the main board and shareholders of Taylor Wimpey, asking for the company to build fewer homes on the land so that the groundworks are not required.

Peter Boros, who chairs the group, said: “One might have hoped that Taylor Wimpey would understand how unpopular its grouting proposals and the consequential off-site drainage strategy were and look at
re-planning the layout and density of the site so that ground remediation and off-site drainage scheme was not necessary but we believe this is not the likely outcome. It is seeking approval for a construction management plan for works that are not part of the approved planning permission.”

A spokesman for the council said: “Taylor Wimpey have submitted a request to discharge a condition requiring approval of a construction management plan and this includes details of how they would manage the ground stabilisation works, including the proposed compaction grouting.

“Taylor Wimpey have also submitted an application for a certificate of lawful development which seeks a formal legal view from the council about whether the groundworks require planning permission.

“We will not determine the application for the construction management plan until a decision has been issued on the certificate of lawful development. This order of events will ensure that the question of whether the groundworks require planning permission in their own right is resolved first.

“We will not approve the construction management plan if the certificate of lawful development is refused.”

The certificate of lawful development application is due to be decided by January 13.

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