Thursday, 18 July 2019

Developer unveils plan for retirement village

A RETIREMENT village for at least 150 people could be built in Sonning Common.

Inspired Villages wants to develop land in Blounts Court Road opposite the Johnson Matthey Technology Centre.

The company, which has not yet submitted a planning application, says Sonning Common would benefit as more than 25 per cent of villagers are aged over 65, one of the highest proportions of elderly in any community in South Oxfordshire. 

The development would have 40 close care flats and 110 assisted living flats, each with one or two bedrooms, a sitting room and kitchen, plus 165 parking spaces for residents and staff.

There would also be a restaurant, coffee shop, hairdressers, convenience store, library, reading room and communal space. 

Residents would also have a swimming pool, spa, gym and treatment room and the pool would be available to the wider community and local schools. 

Inspired Villages says the number of elderly people is rising but the supply of homes cannot keep up with the demand. 

Leigh Rawlins, who chairs the planning committee of Sonning Common Parish Council, said the site was not part of the original village neighbourhood plan but had been offered for inclusion in the version currently being updated.

He said: “There are various factors to consider. The site not only sits in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but is in a high and exposed location with local roads that have limited capacity. If developed, it may create pressure for ‘fill in’ development down to Peppard Road.

“Increased longevity is a great benefit to us all but also brings challenges.

“Between now and 2050, the population of over-75s in the UK is expected to double. However, the age profile of Sonning Common has already become imbalanced, mostly due to the development boom here in the Sixties and Seventies, which brought in younger families who, for the most part, have stayed.

“It is true that this development may help to address some of our downsizing needs.

“However, I did have the opportunity to ask a representative of the company who visited a neighbourhood plan exhibition about their operation and I believe there are some issues.

“He explained that his company makes no provision for dementia, a condition they consider out of their scope. I must question if this makes the proposition fully fit for purpose.

“Developments like this avoid providing any social housing requirement, normally 40 per cent, and avoid making any contribution to local infrastructure.”

Councillor Rawlins added: “It is not yet clear what the price of the units would be but it seems likely that it will be high.”

The developer will hold a public exhibition about the proposals at the village hall in Wood Lane next Friday (July 12) from 5.30pm to 8pm and next Saturday, July 13 from 10am to 2pm.

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