Sunday, 21 April 2019

New homes ‘would worsen congestion and pollution’

A DEVELOPMENT of 183 new homes in Watlington would cause more congestion and increase air pollution, according to a planning officer.

Archstone and Bloor Homes have applied for permission to build on land between the B4009 Britwell Road and the B480 Cuxham Road.

The site, which is currently used as a pig farm, is the largest to be allocated for housing in the Watlington neighbourhood plan, which was approved in a referendum in the summer.

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, failed to make a decision on the application by the due date of November 30 so the developers have appealed and an inquiry will be held in the autumn.

However, planning officer Emma Bowerman says she would have recommended that consent was refused because Watlington’s road network is already congested and plans for a bypass, or “edge road”, to the west and north of the town have not been approved by Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority. In a report, Mrs Bowerman says: “The road network in Watlington is particularly sensitive. Traffic regularly queues through the town centre as the historic constrained layout is unable to accommodate the demand.

“The congestion leads to the blocking of junctions and in peak hours results in queues that are slow to disperse.

“Any new trips will add to the delay experienced at these junctions and could increase the periods that junctions and carriageways are blocked.

“Due to the congestion and queues, the impact of additional trips is disproportionate and [even] very few trips may add significantly to the delay experienced by road users.

“Increased queues themselves could increase the risk of shunt-type collisions and could add to manoeuvring within the carriageway and on the footway as well as adding to driver frustration.” Mrs Bowerman says the bypass is “essential” to mitigate the effects on the volume of traffic caused by this and other developments.

However, the county council is still considering the exact route of the road and the timeframe for delivery, which is a “complex” process as it involves four development sites and several different parties.

She says that Archstone has been unable to agree on the impact of the development on traffic if there was no bypass.

Mrs Bowerman says: “The applicant has provided a model to analyse traffic flows through Watlington town centre and asserts that traffic impact without the edge road in place would not be sufficient to justify a refusal of planning permission.

“However, the county council officers do not have confidence in the model and cannot agree with the applicant’s position.

“Officers are currently working with the applicant to agree a suitable model in order that traffic impact may be appraised appropriately.

“As it stands, it has not been demonstrated that the development would be acceptable without the mitigation provided by the edge road.

“If the application had been determined at the current time, I would have recommended that planning permission be refused as the traffic arising from the development would add to the residual cumulative impacts on the local road network, most notably through the town centre, resulting in additional congestion and delay and unacceptable harm to highway safety.”

Mrs Bowerman also raises concerns about the impact on air quality in the town, which is a designated air quality management area.

She says the bypass would provide “suitable mitigation” but the benefits would not be realised unless the entire route is built.

“Without certainty over the delivery of the edge road, our air quality team considers that the development would have a severe adverse impact,” she adds.

The developers’ appeal is due to be considered by a planning inspector in October. The hearing has been scheduled for four days.

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