Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Now councils agree to 183 new homes

TWO councils have withdrawn their objections to plans for 183 new homes in Watlington only weeks before an appeal hearing.

South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council were objecting to plans by Archstone and Bloor Homes to build at a pig farm between the B4009 Britwell Road and the B480 Cuxham Road.

But now they have agreed not to oppose the appeal at a public inquiry next month after the firms proposed traffic and air quality mitigation measures.

This leaves just Watlington Parish Council and the Pyrton Manor and Shirburn Castle and Environs Alliance to take on the developers.

The site is one of three earmarked for development in the Watlington neighbourhood plan and the scheme must include a section of a proposed bypass.

The district council, the planning authority, failed to make a decision on the plans in 2017, so the firms appealed.

But it said that if it had been able to determine the application it would have refused permission because:

• Traffic from the development would have a  cumulative impact on the local road network, most notably through Watlington town centre.

• The development would increase congestion and delays within Watlington town centre and would have a severe adverse impact on its air quality.

• The scheme wouldn’t provide enough affordable housing.

The county council had  recommended refusal due to the expected impact of the extra traffic on the town centre. 

Since then the developers have provided modelling and proposed mitigation measures until the bypass is built, which it’s hoped will be by late 2023 or early 2024. 

A county council report says: “The proposed mitigation includes removal of two stretches of on-street parking, one to the north on Shirburn Road and the other to the south on Couching Street.

Restrictions would be enforceable during critical network peak times, 7am to 9.30am and 4pm to 6.30pm. 

“The model shows that by removing two sections of parking, traffic impact would be mitigated appropriately until such time as the Watlington relief road is provided.

“The proposal has been the subject of a road safety audit which raised one issue: the speed of vehicles approaching from the north may increase as their progress would be unfettered by parked cars.

“The appellant has addressed this issue through the provision of speed cushions on Shirburn Road. The road safety auditor and county council consider this an appropriate resolution.” 

A range of air quality mitigation measures have been agreed, including:

• Electric vehicle charging points and cycle parking in all garages at the development as well as communal cycle shelters.

• Rapid electric vehicle charging points in communal car parks.

• Pedestrian and cycle paths linking the development to the town centre.

• A new bus stop on Cuxham Road just to the east of the existing roundabout to encourage use of public transport.

A report by the district council says: “The proposal may have an adverse impact on local air quality at some locations in Watlington. However, the mitigation measures proposed and agreed would address these impacts.”

The development would also provide 40 per cent “affordable” housing and include contributions for the provision of recycling/refuse bins, street naming and numbering, public art, £1,000 per dwelling towards enhancement of bus services passing through Watlington and up to £1,200 for improved bus stop provision in the area.

Matt Reid, chairman of Watlington Parish Council, said it wasn’t clear why the district council had withdrawn its objections and the county council had not discussed the plans to remove the on-street parking with his council.

He added: “We are having to come up with our own air quality arguments and I think we have got a pretty good case actually.”

The inquiry will take place at Tetsworth Memorial Hall from October 15 to 18.

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