Friday, 23 August 2019

Developer criticised again over lack of landscaping

A HOUSEBUILDER has been accused of failing to carry out landscaping at a development in Sonning Common.

It is the second time in months that Bewley Homes has been criticised by the parish council over screening on a pathway between Kennylands Road and Lea Meadow, off Peppard Road.

In December, Councillor Tom Fort complained that nearby residents had had to endure noise and disruption and were “appalled” by Bewley’s seeming unwillingness to complete the work.

Bewley responded by saying that the landscaping was being carried out by a contractor and the company was aware more needed to be done.

In April, the company was told by an enforcement officer from South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, that it must plant hedging.

Now residents and councillors have complained that little has been done still.

A meeting of the parish council’s planning committee heard the landscaping had been an issue ever since development of 65 homes neared completion.

Deputy parish clerk Ros Varnes said: “Some residents of Bird Wood Court and Essex Way were very concerned by how the site had been left. They raised it with the parish council.

“The planning officer was advised by Bewley they would take steps to rectify the situation. Bewley got people in to do more work. Then the planning officer went back and concluded it wasn’t acceptable and more needed to be done.

“They needed to plant a hedge along Essex Way as residents are looking out on a bank of brambles and rubbish that has been left strewn around the site. We are talking public safety.

“It was just left in a way that was not acceptable and really contrasted with the landscape areas in the main part of the site.”

The bungalows in Essex Way, which are designated for retired people, back on to the pathway.

Derek Wilmot, 70, who lives there with his wife Anne, 74, said: “I do not think Bewley have fulfilled their obligations. It’s sloppy work really and I would not expect this from a professional organisation. Part of the agreement was they would do a wood plant walkway from Kennylands Road back to the development. What they have produced is just sloppy, amateurish work. It’s all overgrown.

“Some trees have not grown because they were not planted properly in the first place. There’s all sorts of barbed wire, old machinery, wood and tree stumps and it’s generally uncared for. I would like them to produce an acceptable walkway with correct planting and pay some attention to the grass cutting and the removal of the rubbish.

“I am hoping South Oxfordshire District Council will ensure that Bewley will fulfill their obligations in what would be an acceptable way.”

Leigh Rawlins, who chairs the committee, said: “If you were to go and walk over to the fence you could see what the residents are eating off the plates in their homes because the gardens are very short indeed.

“The premise of the conditions was that Bewley would plant hawthorny-type hedging all along the back of these properties and other plants along the side.

“They have done a bit but the hedging is still not there and there are other bits they have not done.”

Andrew Brooks, managing director of Bewley Homes, said the company had now agreed a works schedule with the district council.

Trees and hedges would be installed in the autumn rather than in the summer when they could be killed by the heat.

Mr Brooks said: “We are working with the local authority at the moment. We want to make sure we give the [hedging] the best opportunity to survive.

“We take our responsibilities seriously, especially landscaping. It’s something we as a company want to deliver on all the time because what we leave behind us is our legacy.”

Bewley Homes’ application was granted planning permission in July 2016, two months before the Sonning Common neighbourhood development plan was approved in a referendum, despite opposition from the parish council and residents.

The land was recommended for 60 homes in the document.

The development comprises a range of homes from one-bedroom flats to five-bedroom houses, 40 per cent of which are “affordable”, in line with district council policy.

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