Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Sites for 400 homes to be agreed in return for bypass

THE sites earmarked for 400 new homes in Watlington will be revealed next month.

The parish council’s neighbourhood plan steering committee is expected to favour sites to the west of town in order that developers will fund what would effectively be a bypass.

The new road would be to the north and west of the town and could involve realigning the B4009.

The committee will reveal its list of sites at a meeting of Watlington Parish Council following months of work by the neighbourhood plan forum.

Archstone and Bloor Homes want to build 200 homes on land off Britwell Road, to the west of town, and are willing to provide a section of the road.

A report by the committee says: “Taking into account feedback from residents, we propose the logical route for this alternative road is around Watlington to the north and west of the town.

“This road should not only meet Watlington’s present needs but also ‘future-proofs’ Watlington against developments likely to happen elsewhere in south Oxfordshire.

“The proposed site selection will aim to provide a well-integrated extension of the town westwards with a similar approach to design of the housing and the access points to new developments.”

Ian Hill, who chairs the parish council, said: “We need to make sure the neighbourhood plan gives us the road we want.”

He suggested that there should be no more than 300 new houses, excluding plans for a site off Pyrton Lane, in Pyrton parish, for 100 houses.

Councillor Hill said: “If we specify only 200 there’s a risk that South Oxfordshire District Council will say, ‘you’re not pulling your weight, we want more’.”

Councillor Tom Bindoff said: “I started this process believing we didn’t need a road and that we would be able to manage but we have come to the conclusion that that’s not the case.

“You can’t have any doubts, I’m afraid, that this going to be the end of Watlington.”

Vice-chairman Matt Reid said a plan for a ring road was narrowly defeated in a referendum in the town in the late Eighties.

“Skip forward to 2017 and what we have been putting off and putting off has resurfaced,” he said.

“We’d love to keep the town as it is but we’re part of a wider network of local housing,”

Councillor Jeremy Bell said: “If it’s done sensitively with blocks of green in between and suitable, really nice places to live rather than multiplicity of boxes, we could have a very successful expansion of Watlington with a greater number than 400 houses.

“It could be done wonderfully or it could be done awfully.”

The report recommends that planning permission should not be granted for any of the proposed development sites until a strategy for the new road, including funding, detailed plans and a timetable, had been agreed by parish, district and county councils.

Meanwhile, Watlington Parish Council is a step closer to taking over responsibility for an unoccupied town centre property from Oxfordshire County Council.

No 33 High Street, which has been empty for almost 30 years and needs major renovation work to make it habitable, is owned by the Charlotte Coxe Trust.

Together with No 35, which is occupied by the library, it was left in 1949 by Charlotte Coxe as a legacy for the benefit of the people of Watlington.

The parish council has agreed to the custodian trusteeship being transferred from the county to itself subject to an investigation and report by Cllr Hill and councillors Rachel Huckvale and Tony Williamson.

Asked by Councillor Terry Jackson about the risk of asbestos being in the building, Cllr Hill said a check had been made but a more in-depth investigation would be required.

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