Saturday, 15 May 2021

Villagers ‘would benefit from retirement flats development’

Villagers ‘would benefit from retirement flats development’

A PROPOSED retirement “village” in Sonning Common would benefit the existing residents, a planning inquiry heard this week.

Inspired Villages, now known as Senior Living, wants to build 110 flats on a field in Blounts Court Road but was refused planning permission by South Oxfordshire District Council.

The developer appealed and a hearing before a planning inspector began on Tuesday.

The site is in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where development can only be considered in exceptional circumstances.

Christopher Young, who is representing the company, told the inspector Harold Stephens that the exceptional circumstance was the need for housing for the elderly.

Mr Young said: “The appeal site is on the edge of the AONB and is very much in the ordinary category. An AONB is not an embargo on development.

“This would be a high-quality development where the AONB is reflected in the design. Inspired Villages have recently been nominated for an award for their designs.” The company claims more than 25 per cent of Sonning Common residents are aged over 65, one of the highest proportions of elderly in any community in South Oxfordshire.

Mr Young said the development would allow elderly people to remain homeowners instead of moving to a care home and this would, in turn, free up family homes for younger people.

The complex would have 40 “close care” flats and 110 assisted living flats, each with one or two bedrooms and a sitting room and kitchen, plus 165 parking spaces for residents and staff. It would also include a restaurant, hairdresser, coffee shop, convenience store, library, reading room and communal space.

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

Mr Young said the complex would deliver “significant” benefits, including extra care accommodation and employment opportunities, which outweighed any reasons to reject the appeal.

But Ben Du Feu, who is representing Sonning Common Parish Council, which opposes the development, said the scheme could not be considered an “exceptional circumstance”.

He said the scheme would cause “substantial harm” to the village landscape and would be in conflict with the parish council’s neighbourhood plan.

He said: “There have been 180 objections but the parish council does not come to the inquiry relying on the weight of these. The site has been assessed and was not recommended as a potential site for development. It does not have access to transport and local facilities and the design would be urbanising.”

The parish council objected to the plans on the grounds the development was “excessive and inappropriate”.

The district council, the planning authority, rejected the proposals in June, saying the scheme “fails to demonstrate exceptional circumstances in the public interest that would justify the development”.

The hearing, which is being held online, is expected to last eight days.

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