Friday, 22 February 2019

Residents to help assess nine sites for development

RESIDENTS of Sonning Common are to assess sites in the village to see if they are suitable for housing developments.

Forty people volunteered to help while attending an open day at the village hall on Saturday.

Up to 150 residents were present and heard from members of the village’s neighbourhood plan working party how the document needs updating.

The orgininal plan, which passed in a referendum in 2016, earmarked a number of sites for 200 new homes, including land off Ashford Avenue (50 homes), a playing field at Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge School (37), two sites off Kennylands Road (26 and 20) and Lea Meadow (60), where the development is well under way.

However, Sonning Common could have to accommodate another 108 homes by the year 2034 under South Oxfordshire District Council’s new local plan which is due to be examined by an independent government inspector.

Councillor Tom Fort, chairman of the working party, said the nine sites to be examined were not necessarily the preferred choices.

He said: “These are not sites the working party considers suitable for development or has any view on at all. It is the wishful thinking of landowners who want to make stacks of money and we have to have the interests of the village in mind.

“The volunteers will be sent out with a form to fill in, which basically describes the site and then asks if the proposed development is suitable for development or not.

“Once we have done all that, we collate all these into a list and on the basis of that and other considerations we will make a decision.”

Cllr Fort said the open day was a great success despite the snow and ice, adding: “The size of the attendance reflects the continuing involvement of the residents in the neighbourhood plan process. 

“Our intention is to keep that involvement going by consulting the village at every stage. We have learned that this is the only sure way to retain confidence.

“One thing we learned the first time round is the more we can involve the village the more effective the process is. People then feel they have been part of something that affects their lives.”

The public consultation period for the local plan ends on Monday, February 18.

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