Saturday, 20 October 2018

Garage eyes new premises to make way for housing

A GARAGE in Sonning Common  which is being forced to relocate has applied for planning permission to build new premises.

The Mike Farina Garage is set to leave its premises in Sedgewell Road after more than 40 years when its lease expires in the summer as the landowner wants to build housing there.

Owner Gary Catt wants to move to land opposite Kidby’s Yard, off Kennylands Road, and build a new vehicle workshop and MOT testing station.

The site is earmarked for commercial use in the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan and parish councillors suggested the garage moves there last year.

Mr Catt has agreed a deal to use 240 sq m  of the land, which is owned by the family of businessman Francis Williams, who died last year. The move would allow him to expand the business by offering MOT testing.

Mr Catt, who grew up in the village, has worked for the company for more than 25 years, starting as a teenager on work experience. He took over the business six years ago when he bought it off founder Mike Farina.

Mr Catt said his customers, who come from Nettlebed, Henley and Emmer Green as well as Sonning Common, had been rallying round him and offering support.

He said: “The parish council were the ones who pointed me in the direction of this site. There is nothing available apart from this so it’s a kind of do or die situation.

“We’ve put in the application and hopefully the [district] council will say it is okay. We have our fingers crossed.

“There are houses popping up all over the village but they need to think about infrastructure such as businesses.

“We service the majority of vehicles and those are the people rallying around us. The garage has been here since 1981 and is a huge asset to the village.”

The new premises have a steel-framed workshop with two maintenance bays, an MOT bay, reception, office, two toilets and a canteen.

There would be seven visitor and staff parking spaces and the access track would be improved. There would be a new boundary fence and other landscaping.

A design and access statement by Mackley Mulkerns Architecture, of Reading, says: “The applicant is an established and locally valued vehicle repair business currently operating from premises in a predominantly residential area.

“The lease expires in summer 2018 and the business must then vacate the premises, necessitating either relocation in the local area or closure with the attendant loss of local jobs.

“The proposed move would enable the applicant to develop and expand his business to include MOT testing, a service which he is unable to offer in his existing premises.”

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, will make a decision by June 22.

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