Saturday, 24 August 2019

Housing could help pay for new school says developer

A DEVELOPER wants to build 27 homes near Peppard Common which could help fund a new village primary school.

Elegant Homes, of Patrick Road, Caversham, has earmarked land north of the common that used to be a football pitch and is currently used to keep horses.

The land, which is in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is north of the site earmarked for the new school, off Dog Lane.

John Neville, of Elegant Homes, has written to Peppard Parish Council to say the statutory contributions the company would make in return for being given planning permission could go towards the school.

He said: “A development of this size will be required to produce substantial developer contributions towards the local, district and county infrastructure.

“We have, however, identified the potential of working with the primary school with a view to funnelling as much of these contributions as possible to the school rebuilding project.

“We have held a number of meetings with the lead governor to discuss how this could be achieved.

“We believe there is synergy between the two projects and that there is potential for the developer contributions of any successful application to be allocated towards the school. We believe that if we are to maximise the financial contributions to the parish for the school's benefit then it is better that we have these discussions with the parish first before any approaches are made to the district council as the planning authority.

“This may enable the school to capture more of these contributions than would otherwise be the case.”

The school, which is currently in Church Lane, has purchased its new site and already uses it for sport.

It was granted planning permission to relocate in 2011 but has not yet found the estimated £3 million needed to pay for the move. Some funding could come through selling its current site for redevelopment.

Ian Heriot, a foundation governor at the school, who is overseeing the relocation project, said: “We are clearly aware that if the development took place then the normal statutory payments required could be of benefit to the school but that is a long way down the line.

“Clearly if planning consent was given then there will be payments to Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council and it may benefit us. If something like this comes along and it does benefit the school then it’s all grist to the mill.” But parish councillor Simon Crouch said the tone of the developer’s letter was “a bit threatening”.

Speaking at a parish council meeting on Monday, he said: “They are implying this would be the only way to meet that requirement. It says it would be a mix of housing but we don’t know what that means.”

Cllr Crouch said the village would be able to meet its new homes targets over the next decade due to the amount of infill development taking place.

He said he was apprehensive about inviting the developer to meet the council as it could suggest it was in favour of the proposal.

“I would want to know how much they are going to put in,” said Cllr Crouch. “If we are talking hundreds of thousands then it could change our minds but we don’t need them to meet our targets.”

Councillor Dominic Hall said a significant contribution to the school could help get the project moving much more quickly.

“It’s still a live project but they do need that funding,” he said.

Councillor Veronica Treacher said villagers were unlikely to support the plans, adding: “People won’t want these houses on the AONB.”

Councillor Jeni Wood, who chairs the council, said it would be beneficial to have some affordable housing in the village. She said: “I don’t particularly want more houses being built. However, when we see infill housing it is certainly not going to be affordable.

“I think we need to look and listen, then if we don’t like it at least we have done that.”

The council agreed to invite the developer to present its proposals at a planning committee meeting at Springwater Church hall, off Blounts Court Road, on November 19 which will be open to the public.

Peter Neville, managing director of Elegant Homes, said: “‘Under the emerging South Oxfordshire District Council local plan 2033, Rotherfield Peppard is defined as a smaller village and is required to deliver a five to 10 per cent increase in dwelling numbers.

“This site has been identified in the strategic housing and economic land availability assessment as having capacity for up to 27 dwellings.

“Our plans are at an embryonic stage and our approach to the parish is of a scoping nature to explore their thoughts for the future of the village.

“As a local company, we believe that engagement with the parish at this early stage can lead to greater community benefits being captured from any potential development.’’

• All the parish council’s meetings will be held at Springwater Church from November to April while Peppard sports pavilion is modernised and extended.

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