Monday, 16 December 2019

Council changes mind on homes plan after changes

A SECOND application to build 183 homes in Watlington was likely to have been approved by the planning authority if it had been able to.

Archstone and Bloor Homes want to build on a former pig farm between the B4009 Britwell Road and the B480 Cuxham Road but have appealed after South Oxfordshire District Council failed to make a decision within the required time.

A public inquiry will be held in January, the second in four months after the companies appealed when the council also failed to make a decison in time on their application submitted in 2017.

The Planning Inspectorate is expected to make a decision on that appeal by December 16.

The second appeal means that the council’s planning commitee cannot make a decision on the application, just as it couldn’t in April when it was due to consider the first application but couldn’t due to the appeal.

However, a report to Wednesday’s meeting of the committee by planning officer Emma Bowerman says she would have recommended approval, the opposite view she took in April.

On that occasion she recommened refusal, saying that Watlington’s road network was already congested and plans for a bypass, or “edge road”, to the west and north of the town had not been approved by Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.

Now she says the developers have  worked with the county council to develop “solutions” to the short-term traffic impact of the development until the bypass is built.

These include the removal of two stretches of on-street parking, one in Shirburn Road and the other in Couching Street.

A range of air quality mitigation measures has also been agreed, including electric vehicle charging points and cycle parking in all garages at the development and communal cycle shelters and rapid electric vehicle charging points in communal car parks.

There would also be pedestrian and cycle paths linking the development to the town centre and a new bus stop on Cuxham Road to encourage use of public transport.

Mrs Bowerman says: “Following some further modelling work, the council’s air quality specialist is also satisfied that this development, when considered cumulatively with other expected growth, would have an acceptable impact on the Watlington air quality management area. Officers consider that when assessed against the development plan as a whole, the proposal would represent a sustainable form of development. As such, if the council was able to determine the application, officers would have recommended that permission be granted subject to conditions and the completion of a legal agreement.”

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

The road would go from the B4009 Pyrton crossroads in the north to Britwell Road in the south. It would run north of the pig farm, cut across Cuxham Road and then go through two sites, where Providence Land wants to build 130 homes, before joining the B4009.

In the companies’ second application, the proposed bypass route has been changed. They say this was in response to a request by the county council but it would result in traffic using the industrial estate spur road, off the Cuxham Road roundabout.

Mrs Bowerman says: “This repeat application was submitted to continue exploring the matters that remained in dispute between the applicant and council officers.

“The plans were then amended to provide for an alternative route for the realigned B4009 and this involved the creation of a second vehicular access from the site via the industrial estate road, to the Willow Close roundabout. These amendments were made at the request of the highway team, who are exploring options to determine what would be their preferred route for the edge road. This work in ongoing.”

Watlington Parish Council has objected to the plan, saying the amended route for the edge road is contrary to the policies in its neighbourhood plan.

It says: “The revised route does not follow the expected, indicative route that is at the core of the plan and which is strongly supported by a majority of residents. The new routing splits the site, dividing it into two distinct areas and isolating the northern (larger) portion. The amended route leaves too many homes on the outside of the edge road and is therefore not acceptable.

“Watlington council stresses that it has previously supported development on this site, based on the original layout and the contribution that the site makes to the route of the edge road in accordance [and] conditional on the delivery of the full length of the road.”

Cuxham with Easington Parish Council and Shirburn Parish Meeting have also objected. Both the district and county councils have withdrawn their objections.

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