Monday, 14 June 2021

‘New housing should wait until bypass is completed’

DEVELOPMENT of new homes in Watlington and Pyrton should not start until the completion of a bypass, it has been claimed.

Tim Horton, of The Goggs in Watlington, has submitted an amendment to South Oxfordshire District Council’s new local plan, which allocates sites for development until 2033.

Watlington parish councillors agreed to support him at a meeting on Tuesday night, although vice-chairman Matt Reid questioned the funding of the road, saying the costs were still “completely unknown”.

The route would run from the B4009 Pyrton crossroads in the north to Britwell Road in the south and is seen as vital to the town and its neighbourhood plan, which earmarks three sites for up to 260 homes.

It has been included in the plan to alleviate congestion and improve air quality in the centre of Watlington and could rely on part-funding from Homes England if a development of 3,000 homes at Chalgrove airfield goes ahead.

The parish council also wants the developers of sites allocated in its plan to provide land for the new road.

It is estimated that the Watlington bypass would cost £13 million with £4.3 million expected to come from the agency. But Councillor Reid has raised concerns about a “huge” funding gap for the project.

He told a parish council strategy committee last month that to fund the approximate £8 million shortfall for the road Watlington would have to build 800 houses, with £10,000 per house from Community Infrastructure Levy money to fund it.

At the full council meeting he asked if the developers had given a “concrete” statement on their commitment to the road.

Councillor Tom Bindoff replied: “All the developers have accepted they will provide their land and they will build the road on their part.

“ It’s misleading to say there’s a shortfall of £8 million. It’s not all written down but we don’t want people to think there’s no money for this road.”

District councillors have voted against the local plan over the inclusion of the Chalgrove airfield site. Tenant business, ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker, says it does not want to make way for housing but continue with its lease, which runs until 2063.

Mr Horton, a former parish councillor, said: “Simply, we need this relief road whether or not Chalgrove takes place.” He said it would provide “great comfort” to residents if the council backed him and added: “It’s about the road being before everything else.”

Councillor Williamson said: “It is vital we get this edge road. I think the people of Watlington want to see it being used before any houses are being built.

“It seems to me, on behalf of our population, we have to be quite clear we’re using every means of pressing for the edge road to be built and quite clear to ourselves and the people of Watlington that we’re using every method possible to press for the finance of the road.

“The developers, with Oxfordshire County Council, have just about agreed the exact line of the road, they have agreed on specifications, and all it needs is the money.”

Cllr Reid said: “An infrastructure issue with the development of the new housing we’re proposing in the neighbourhood plan is if you build it piecemeal there will be a knock-on effect in terms of traffic.

“It makes more sense for the infrastructure to be developed up front, which is something our district councillor is pursuing.”

Gill Bindoff, facilitator of the Watlington neighbourhood plan forum co-ordination group, said it had been agreed some time ago that the road should come first. “It was necessary to our plan and it was not dependent on Chalgrove,” she said.

Months of work had gone into securing a road and funding, she added.

Councillor Tony Williamson has written to Henley MP John Howell about the funding of the road.

Mr Howell replied saying: “For Watlington, it seems to me that the most likely funding for the proposed road would come from the proposed development at Chalgrove Airfield.

“As you know this would be developed by Homes England which as a public body works in a different way to private developers and can bring together different parties to enable infrastructure to be put in place early in new development.

“I have long called for infrastructure ahead of or at least in line with development and have discussed this with Homes England.

“A key concern is that the road network is improved at the start of work rather than following the build. Homes England is of the view that they could pump prime the road funding if an appropriate agreement could be put in place for repayment as developments come forward.”

He added: “At present I am waiting to see something in writing on this and can assure you that I will continue to push for this.”

More News:

POLL: Have your say