Saturday, 24 August 2019

Developer to press ahead despite homes criticism

A DEVELOPER says parish councillors have already “made their mind up” about proposals to build a retirement village in Sonning Common. 

Keith Cockell, chairman of Inspired Villages, made the comment at a public consultation event on Friday and Saturday last week where residents could ask questions about the scheme.

The company wants to build homes for 150 people in a field off Blounts Court Road opposite the Johnson Matthey Technology Centre.

It has not submitted a planning application but says villagers would benefit as more than 25 per cent 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. 

Mr Cockell said he would work with the parish council to alleviate any concern. He said: “My view of the parish council is that they are well meaning, but they have also made their mind up and are against it. But we will continue to engage with them in a meaningful way.

“We completely sympathise with people who would rather not see a greenfield site built on. This sort of consultation is intended to lay to rest some of those fears.

Mr Cockell added: “I guarantee you 50 per cent of people will think this is a good idea and that they need it. Those are the submerged people that are not actually represented by the local groups — whether that’s planning groups or parish councillors. We have a duty to inform those people.

Ian Hatt, 54, who lives in Kennylands Road with his wife Rachel, 49, did not support the proposal. 

Mr Hatt said: “I think they are trying to take advantage of the demographic of the village. What’s worse is they are proposing to put this in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I am very surprised they have taken this approach — it’s outrageous.”

Roger Simmonds, 76, who lives in Essex Way with his wife Barbara, 76, said there needed to be more homes for the young, not elderly. 

He said: “I know we need homes but I do not know if we need that type of home because there’s nothing for the youngsters. If they want the village to grow, it won’t grow with elderly people because they won’t be here long enough.”

Pam Gross, 73, of Woodbury Close, agreed. She said: “It’s a lovely idea but we need more homes for young people.

“I also think the proposals are in the wrong place. Blounts Court Road has no street lights or pavements. That’s fine when you are young but it’s not the ideal location for an elderly complex.”

However, some residents were in favour of the development.

Lynne Soal, 53, of Peppard Road, attended with her partner Neville Varnham, 56. 

She said: “I think it’s a better idea to have 150 new homes for that age group than families because the school is already under so much pressure.”

Mr Varnham said: “It may be something that would appeal. It will provide a bit of independence.”

Andrea Baple, 74, of Appletree Close, said: “It’s not for me but I think it’s a good idea. It gives you some sort of comfort that you have people around and there are people that can watch out for you. If I have fallen over I could be lying in the garden for God knows how long.

“I would prefer to see this than I would new houses, which are going to bring a lot of young people and more cars.

“I think sometimes we need this because I do not think the village could cope with care in the home so much. The Fish volunteer centre is limited as well and all the people in the village are getting older.”

Leigh Rawlins, who chairs the parish council’s planning committee, disputed Mr Cockell’s claim, saying it is yet to make any decision, adding that the neighbourhood plan working party would assess it alongside other potential development sites.

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