Friday, 22 February 2019

Town plan challenged by four new homes

A BUSINESSMAN’S proposal to build four new homes in Watlington has been described as the first major challenge to the town’s neighbourhood plan.

Errol Facy, owner of a Henley department store, wants to build a pair of two-bedroom cottages and two four- or five-bedroom houses off Brook Street.

But the site is not allocated for development in the neighbourhood plan, which was approved at a referendum in June.

Watlington Parish Council has objected to the application, saying: “Watlington and the district’s housing needs will be fully catered for in the three development sites allocated in the [plan].

“This application is not needed and offers the community no benefits but many issues… [it] will not contribute to a well-balanced mix of housing, or increase the availability of affordable houses.

“Development on this backland site — it cannot be described as infill — will have a significant impact on neighbouring houses including light reduction and overlooking.”

The council says the development would be contrary to its aim to protect and enhance the character of Watlington and the historic setting of the town.

It also has concerns about the proposed access to the site, saying it would threaten road and pedestrian safety.

It continues: “The application would require upgrading the existing gravelled single-track off Brook Street to Oxfordshire County Council specifications.

“Construction would result in major damage to the roots of an iconic avenue of mature trees that line the path, resulting in severe damage to the trees with the potential that they would be destroyed.

“In addition, this application would exacerbate rather than relieve the situation on two major issues that the [plan] seeks to address — chronic traffic congestion and air quality levels that consistently exceed legal guidelines.”

In 2016 Mr Facy proposed to build five homes on the site but withdrew his application after objections from residents.

He has revised the site layout in the latest application, saying it avoids the Environment Agency designated floodplain and minimal excavation would be required for the main access with no “appreciable risk” of damaging the mature trees.

The application is due to be considered by South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee later this month.

Meanwhile, a developer has lost an appeal over its plan for 40 new homes in Lewknor.

Rainier Developments wanted to develop five acres of land off Watlington Road owned by All Souls’ College, Oxford.

But South Oxfordshire District Council refused permission, saying the scheme would be out of character with the rural character of the village and would be overdevelopment of the site.

Now a planning inspector has upheld the decision after the company appealed.

Hayden Baugh-Jones said the development would cause “unacceptable” harm to the form and character of Lewknor.

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