Saturday, 02 July 2022

Field to be turned into ‘car park with giant blocks of flats’

Field to be turned into ‘car park with giant blocks of flats’

DETAILED plans for a large complex of “extra care” flats and cottages for the elderly near Shiplake have been approved.

Planning permission for the development on land east of Reading Road on the southern edge of the village was granted on appeal in 2019.

Now South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, has approved proposals by GHL (Coolsilk), of Loughton, Essex, on the scale, appearance, layout and landscaping of the scheme.

The development will consist of up to 65 units, including four blocks of flats, some cottages, a large clubhouse and 86 car parking spaces with electric vehicle charging points.

The developer has also promised 100 new trees and 5,000sq m of planting as well as a vegetable garden and an orchard.

Each cottage will have a front and back garden and off-street parking. Each block of flats will have a lift and stairs.

A design and access statement prepared by Nick Baker Architects said: “The vision for the site is to be as green and lean as possible to enable the residents to lead an affordable, low-carbon lifestyle. Designing the clubhouse was an opportunity to present a building that encapsulated the identity of the special features of the retirement village.

“With this also came the challenge to ensure that as a building it was attractive to the whole community.

“In taking the core characteristic of the gable-ended ‘Henleyesque’ identity and extending it to a singular form, the intention was to relate to the surrounding residences but also have an all-encompassing singular building.”

The original planning permission was granted to the Retirement Villages Group despite opposition by residents and parish councillors.

The district council rejected the application but a planning inspector overturned this decision, saying that the benefits of the development outweighed any harm to the landscape.

Shiplake Parish Council opposed the latest plans.

Speaking at last week’s meeting of the district council’s planning committee, Councillor Chris Penrose said: “The parish council acknowledges that a retirement village will be built on this site. However, we strongly object to this application. It fails to comply with Shiplake’s emerging neighbourhood plan, whose policies have been built to implement the local plan in Shiplake.

“The landscape character appraisal has not been discussed in planning considerations and our advice is that this is a serious omission given landscape importance in determination.

“We have a number of concerns. First of all, there’s an unsympathetic, non-domestic scale and design to this development which is out of character for Shiplake.

“Notably, the visually intrusive three- and four-storey balconied apartments are inconsistent with Shiplake. The design was inspired by Henley boathouses but this isn’t Henley. Shiplake isn’t a town nor this site on the riverside.

“The applicant has ignored the most locally relevant design and character design. What has emerged is very much not domestic in scale, nor does it reflect the character of the immediate locality.

“The developer could choose to comply with Shiplake’s neighbourhood plan but chose not to.”

David Bartholomew, who represents Shiplake on the district council, said: “While it’s now clearly accepted that the development will go ahead, it’s not unreasonable to expect the developer to show some sensitivity and respect those comments.

“Sadly, the proposals as they stand show little sympathy towards them.

“The community expected the application to feature well-screened, cottage-style buildings in a sensitively and sympathetically designed layout with modest levels of parking.

“What we have got is giant apartment blocks set in a car park. What was a rural field will incorporate unnecessary parking for 86 cars.

“This is totally unnecessary and should be scaled back considerably to avoid the impact on the amenity of neighbours and the environment. The proposal would have an unacceptable and harmful effect on the character and appearance of the surrounding area.”

Henley councillor Ken Arlett said: “If this was a new site in front of us today we wouldn’t vote for it.

“But we are where we are and my view is that we literally have nowhere else to go and I think if we considered voting against it we would get slaughtered on appeal.”

The committee approved the application by six votes to four.

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