Saturday, 15 August 2020

Retirement village with 133 homes refused permission

PLANS for a 133-home retirement village in Sonning Common have been rejected.

Inspired Villages wanted to develop 4.5-hectares of land opposite the Johnson Matthey Technology Centre in Blounts Court Road.

But South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, has refused to grant permission, saying the developer failed to demonstrate “exceptional circumstances” in the public interest that would justify building in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

An application was made by Senior Living and Investfront, on behalf of Inspired Villages, for 73 assisted living units with communal and care facilities, gardens, green space, landscaping, car parking areas and residential blocks.

A separate outline application was submitted for 60 assisted living units.

The applicants claimed the development was needed because the population is ageing and it would benefit the NHS by reducing hospital admissions. The development would have a “wellness centre” comprising a swimming pool, gym and exercise studio which would be available to both residents and non-residents.

The companies said the application had been revised following feedback on its orginal plans.

The changes included providing a 6m wide spine road, increasing the amount of parking from 143 spaces to 167 and providing more detail about encouraging sustainable transport.

They said there would not be a severe impact on the road network or materially harmful impact on road and pedestrian safety.

They also said the design was amended to “simplify” the facades of the buildings in keeping with building in the AONB.

In its decision notice, the council said the scheme would be contrary to planning policy and the Sonning Common neighbourhood plan, which was created to prevent speculative development. It also said there was insufficient information to assess the impact on roads and the developer had failed to provide infrastructure and “affordable” housing in line with planning policy.

Leigh Rawlins, a district councillor who also chairs Sonning Common Parish Council’s planning committee, said: “We will have to see where it goes.

“My view would be that the rejection by the district council was comprehensive. The application was clearly very considered and I felt it was the correct decision for all the reasons that are stated in the notice.

“The level of interest from residents was huge and an overwhelming majority of those were against this.”

Carole Lewis, who chairs the parish council, said members were “delighted” the application had been rejected.

She said: “The proposed site is much too large and definitely in an inappropriate location.

“The residents of Sonning Common are passionate about their semi-rural village and are working hard to keep it that way, primarily through our neighbourhood plan. While there is a need for all types of housing in the village, more affordable housing is required rather than close care accommodation. Both these sectors are included in our neighbourhood plan.”

Inspired Villages has the right to appeal.

Stuart Garnett, the company’s planning director, said it was disappointed at the decision and would review it before considering its next steps.

He continued: “Over the past 12 months, we have engaged constructively with local residents and stakeholders regarding a clear need for specialist accommodation for older people in South Oxfordshire.

“Our application meets the identified need and provides a whole host of new facilities for residents and the wider community.

“At an Inspired village, we are delivering more than bricks and mortar. It’s an opportunity for our residents to enjoy a more mentally, physically and socially active lifestyle in an environment that supports it.”

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