Friday, 19 August 2022

Conservation groups and developers in homes clash

CONSERVATION groups have raised concerns about the number of new homes proposed in Watlington’s neighbourhood plan.

Natural England and the Chilterns Conservation Board were responding to a public consultation on the document, which names three sites for between 238 and 260 properties.

At the same time, a company hoping to develop two of the sites says this number would not be enough to help fund a bypass for the town and should be increased by between another 100 and 140.

The new road, which would run to the west and north of the town, is seen as a key part of the plan in order to alleviate congestion and improve air quality in the centre.

The six-week consultation, which ended on January 28, prompted about 70 responses.

In its formal response, Natural England says the 140 homes earmarked for the largest site, between the B4009 Britwell Road and the B480 Cuxham Road, is too many.

Developers Archstone and Bloor Homes have applied for planning permission for 183 homes there.

The development would include a section of the proposed bypass, which would run from the B4009 to the Cuxham Road roundabout before going west of Willow Close and joining Pyrton Lane.

Rebecca Micklem, lead advisor for sustainable development at Natural England, said: “We have concerns with the amount of development proposed for this site, which is within the setting of, and visible from, the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

She said that South Oxfordshire District Council’s landscape capacity assessment recommended 65 dwellings should be built there.

Lucy Murfett, planning officer for the Chilterns Conservation Board, agreed that the figure of 65 should be observed.

She said: “The site is in the setting of the Chilterns AONB. There are open views of the site from Watlington Hill.”

Providence Land is promoting the other two sites in the plan, one off Pyrton Lane, which is earmarked for 60 dwellings, and the other off Cuxham Road and Willow Close which the document says could take between 38 and 60 homes.

The company has also submitted an application for 100 homes on land off Pyrton Lane, in Pyrton parish, to which Watlington Parish Council’s planning committee has objected.

Tom Hutchinson, associate planner at Howard Sharp & Partners, the chartered surveyors representing the company, said: “We are pleased to see the housing number of 238 specified as a minimum as more than this is likely to be required.

“Our view is that the number of new homes needed to deliver an edge road in full for the town is in the region of 360 to 400 homes.”

This total could just be achieved if the maximum number given in the plan was built plus those required by the Providence site in Pyrton.

The overriding concern among residents who responded to the consultation was the amount of traffic that would be generated on Pyrton Lane.

Nicola Schafer said: “The road has two blind bends in quick succession. Together with the increased traffic, this is making Pyrton Lane increasingly dangerous for both walkers and cyclists.

“Further development must be extremely careful not to exacerbate this situation. It is particularly important that Pyrton Lane cannot be used as a relief road either for increased traffic due to housing development or construction traffic. It is a country lane well used by pedestrians and cyclists and is completely unsuitable.

“There is a short-term option of extending the spur from Willow Close, which would be more appropriate.”

Penny Cole, who lives in Pyrton Lane, said: “It is absolutely appalling that this road is being considered for heavy goods vehicles and through-traffic.

“It is a nightmare in the mornings already with drivers using it as a rat run and residents being subjected to aggressive, rude drivers using it as an alternative to Couching Street.

“To consider it as an alternative to Willow Close, which was built for the purpose of a bypass, is complete idiocy and you can tell that those who have put this idea forward do not live in the town.”

Matthew Wakefield said Pyrton Lane was used by HGVs as a rat run to the M40, creating noise and air pollution and endangering the lives of pedestrians.

He said extending Willow Close was the most feasible option.

Mike Holder said he had “serious” concerns about the potental increase in traffic.

Some residents praised the hard work and commitment of the volunteers who have been compiling the document, which will go to a referendum in the spring.

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