Sunday, 22 September 2019

Council welcomes 130 new homes in return for bypass

PLANS for 130 new homes in Watlington have been backed by the parish council.

Providence Land wants to build 70 properties on land north-east of Cuxham Road and another 60 west of Pyrton Lane. The sites were earmarked for 60 and 38 respectively in the town’s neighbourhood plan.

At a council planning committee meeting last week, members said their support was dependent on the delivery of a bypass, or “edge road”, which is seen as vital in helping to take traffic out of the town centre.

The developer says it will deliver a section of the road, which would run to the west and north of the town.

However, councillors were concerned about the number of properties on the western side of the road, fearing they may be isolated from the rest of Watlington.

Councillor Terry Jackson said she wanted to see more of the proposed houses on the inside of the road and fewer accesses to it and possibly more bus stops.

She also wanted the overall number of homes to be marginally reduced and for clarity on the level of affordable housing, saying the application stated 30 per cent but South Oxfordshire District Council’s requirement on new developments was 40 per cent. Council vice chairman Ian Hill said: “There seems to be quite a large number of houses on either side of the road which makes it look like a road running through a suburban development rather than an edge road.”

He wanted to see an “inclusive” development and not have new houses “excluded” from the rest of the town by being on the wrong side of the road.

Chairman Matt Reid added: “The edge road is much further in than we would have hoped. At present it seems to be a division between the new communities.”

Committee chairman Andrew McAuley said he believed it was impossible to fit all the houses inside the road. He said: “There will be houses on the other side. We do not want to see development completed without an edge road.”

Councillor Reid said the two Providence sites needed to be developed first, or at least simultaneously with the third site in the neighbourhood plan, a pig farm between the B4009 Britwell Road and the B480 Cuxham Road where Archstone and Bloor Homes want to build 183 homes. If the third site was developed before the others there would be a ‘significant’ phasing issue” in terms of traffic build-up, he said.

Councillor McAuley welcomed the gap between the development west of Pyrton Lane and Pyrton Manor, directly to the north, and said if this could be enlarged it would “eliminate” any further opposition.

Wayne Burt, who owns Pyrton Manor, has objected to the development, saying it would be “excessive urbanisation” of a beautiful rural area and it would be “reckless” to allow it. The businessman also accused Providence of being arrogant and greedy.

Members also wanted to protect views of the historic White Mark on Watlington Hill from the site west of Pyrton Lane and from the entrance to the town from Cuxham Road.

The triangular shape was cut into the face of the hill by the Rev Edward Horne in 1763, supposedly because he wanted to make it look like the town’s St Leonard’s Church had a spire. 

Gill Bindoff, a member of the parish council’s neighbourhood plan advisory board, praised the developer for designating almost 50 per cent of the land as open space.

She called the lighting proposals “sympathetic” and was pleased the building materials would reflect the historic vernacular.

Providence says the bypass would “transform” the town’s air quality.

It says: “Public consultations have repeatedly shown that the traffic problems in Watlington town centre are of considerable concern.

“These proposals deliver key sections of the edge road and are also the only proposals that actually deliver physical improvements to the existing road network in bypassing the narrow bend at the lower end of Pyrton Lane.

“A key concern has been to avoid recreating the existing town centre problems at the edge of Watlington.

“The road has been carefully designed in consultation with stakeholders, including the highways authority and developers of neighbouring land.

“The opportunity of the edge road will help to protect and enhance the conservation area and its listed buildings currently blighted and damaged by excessive through- traffic and pollution.”

Providence says both developments would deliver a mixture of housing in line with national and local policies. It adds: “The proposals aim to make the most efficient use of land that is appropriate to the nature and setting of the site.”

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