Thursday, 24 June 2021

Retirement complex ‘would free up family homes’

Retirement complex ‘would free up family homes’

A RETIREMENT village in Sonning Common would help release family homes, an inquiry heard.

Inspired Villages, now known as Senior Living, wants to build 110 flats on a field in Blounts Court Road.

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

South Oxfordshire District Council refused to give planning permission so the developer appealed and a hearing before a planning inspector is now taking place online.

Roland Bolton, senior director of DLP Planning, which is advising the appellant, told the inquiry on Tuesday: “The release of family housing is important as we have a housing crisis and in particular we have a shortage of family housing, which is recognised by the Government.

“There’s a huge level of single occupancy in this district — it’s an issue in the whole of England but here it’s particularly acute.

“South Oxfordshire has 61 per cent of homeowners being in the 55-plus age group and two-thirds of those households are under occupied by two rooms or more, which means if it’s a two-person household that’s at least a three-bedroom property with only one room being used.”

Inspired Villages argues that its research shows the development would release 133 family houses of three bedrooms or more with 39 to 64 of these being within 10 miles of the site.

Mr Bolton added: “Another thing to look at is the affordability... South Oxfordshire is one of England’s top 20 per cent least affordable districts. 

“The median earnings of £32,318 per year would generate a mortgage offer at four times that at £129,272. This is just over a third of the median price of property costing £390,000 and  for young people is unrealistic. 

“So the retirement village is very beneficial as it’s meeting a particular need for a particular age group but also by adding something new to the housing market it’s increasing the number of family homes available.”

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 have a restaurant, hairdresser, coffee shop, convenience store, library, swimming pool, spa and gym. The pool would be available to the wider community and local schools.

Sonning Common Parish Council objects to the development on the grounds that it would “excessive and inappropriate”.

Ben Du Feu, who is representing the council, told the inquiry last week that the scheme would cause “substantial harm” to the village landscape and would be in conflict with the village’s neighbourhood plan.

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

The hearing is expected to finish on Tuesday following a site visit on Monday.

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