Monday, 15 August 2022

Plan examiner casts doubt on viability of Watlington bypass

THE man examining Watlington’s neighbourhood plan has raised a number of questions about the town’s proposed bypass.

Andrew Ashcroft will hear representations from members of the public at the town hall next month to ensure “adequate examination” of the plan, which names three sites for between 238 and 260 homes.

He particularly wants more information on the proposed bypass, which would run to the west and north of Watlington.

The road is seen as key to alleviating congestion and improving air quality in the town centre.

Mr Ashcroft has asked for the evidence in the document that underpins the proposal and whether the three sites and the road would represent sustainable development.

He said: “How will the proposed route be delivered in general terms? Is its delivery dependent on financial contributions from the emerging residential development at Chalgrove and/or from other sources of funding? In broad terms is the development of a bypass commercially viable?

“What discussions have taken place between public bodies and potential developers of the sites proposed in the plan to ensure a
co-ordinated approach towards its design and delivery? When is it anticipated that the bypass will be delivered?

“There are various references in the plan to earlier proposals to use Willow Close and the access road to the Watlington industrial estate as the western part of a bypass. Does this route have any status and/or is it safeguarded?”

Mr Ashcroft also wants to know what would be the likely impact of the proposed new developments on the “free and safe flow” of traffic in the town without a bypass and on traffic levels in Pyrton Lane both with and without a bypass.

On the housing allocations, he says he will investigate if the proposed developments can be “sensitively incorporated within the neighbourhood area in general and its surrounding agricultural landscape in particular”.

Mr Ashcroft said: “Do they take account of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the south and east of the town? Can the three sites be satisfactorily incorporated into the design, layout and townscape of Watlington?”

Natural England has said 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.

Natural England and the Chilterns Conservation Board have said South Oxfordshire District Council’s recommendation of 65 dwellings should be observed.

Providence Land, which is hoping to develop the other two allocated sites, says the number of homes proposed in the plan would not be enough to fund a bypass and should be increased by between another 100 and 140.

Mr Ashcroft’s hearing will take place on March 5. The session on the bypass will be from 10.30am to 1pm and one on the housing allocations from 2pm to 4pm.

Watlington Parish Council and the district council are expected to make statements at both sessions together with developers, residents and a number of invited bodies.

Mr Ashcroft’s report on the plan is expected by March 16.

Gill Bindoff, facilitator of the Watlington neighbourhood plan forum co-ordination group, said: “We always thought there would be a hearing in public because there are quite a few complex issues.

“We will get Mr Ashcroft’s report not many days after the hearing so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that he recommends the plan’s put forward for a referendum.”

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