Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Councils disagree over land earmarked for new bypass

TALKS are to be held to try to secure an agreement over a proposed Watlington bypass.

The parish council is in favour of a new road running from the B4009 Pyrton crossroads in the north to Britwell Road in the south.

It says this would help reduce congestion and air pollution in the town centre.

But neighbouring Pyrton Parish Council has objected, saying it would lead to more development which would “obliterate” the green space between the town and village.

Now negotiations between the two councils and the parishes’ neighbourhood plan groups are set to take place, overseen by John Cotton, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

Watlington’s draft neighbourhood plan identifies three sites for up to 260 new homes but says the B4009 needs to be re-routed in order for the document to be viable and acceptable to both residents and the district council.

The parish council says: “A rural road equivalent in scope to the existing B4009 would be acceptable in the absence of any other development on that site. We hope that Pyrton will join us in seeing the benefits of such a compromise in that it increases the opportunities for increased safety and sport and leisure for both settlements as well as moving the increased traffic flow predicted for 2032 further away from Pyrton’s more historic buildings.”

However, Pyrton council says any realignment of the B4009 would be accompanied by “extensive” housing that would cause the two settlements to merge.

The council says: “It will also cause damage to the setting of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and of the Shirburn registered park and gardens as well as to the Pyrton conservation area and the Grade II listed Pyrton Manor.”

It says it is also concerned about the new road running through a parcel of land to the north of Watlington, off Pyrton Lane, in Pyrton parish where plans for 100 homes have been drawn up by developer Providence Land.

Pyrton’s draft neighbourhood plan, which names three sites for 18 homes, is opposed to the development of this site and wants to see it remain a green space.

The council says: “This is to ensure there remains visual and physical separation between Watlington and Pyrton, that both Watlington and Pyrton remain surrounded by farmland, so preserving their rural setting, and that the Chilterns AONB is not damaged by a sizeable development that would gravely affect the view from Watlington Hill.”

Pyrton says it is sympathetic to Watlington’s concerns about traffic levels but says that stricter enforcement of existing traffic restrictions, such as the seven-tonne weight limit, or the introduction of new ones, could resolve many of the issues.

The council says: “The draft Watlington neighbourhood plan does not present traffic movement data to justify the conclusion reached about the need for the realignment of the B4009 and does not consider alternative solutions that are less intrusive and costly.

“[The bypass] is likely to encourage an even more car-dependent community and lead to congestion that will merely transfer pollution from central Watlington to the north-west periphery. Meanwhile, the new routing is likely to do substantial damage to the businesses and shops in the centre of Watlington that will be marginalised.”

It says the new road, with its congestion and heavy goods vehicles, could discourage Pyrton residents from using “steadily diminishing” shops in Watlington in favour of the “extensive and attractive services” in Thame and elsewhere.

Watlington council says it supports the Pyrton plan’s key aim to protect the character and setting of the village as well as maintain visual separation between the settlements and that it is “broadly in favour” of the designation of the Providence Land site as a green space.

But it adds: “It is noted that there is no provision within the site for a safeguarded route for a re-aligned B4009. This conflicts with the Watlington neighbourhood plan.”

It hoped that an “amicable compromise” was achievable.

Watlington Parish Council vice-chairman Matt Reid welcomed the prospect of arbitration by Councillor Cotton.

He said: “Hopefully, there should be no banging of heads and we hope for agreement at the end of it.”

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