Monday, 20 January 2020

Four new homes approved on appeal

A PLANNING application described as the first major challenge to Watlington’s neighbourhood plan has been granted permission on appeal.

Businessman Errol Facy,  the owner of a Henley department store, appealed after being refused planning permission for four new homes off Brook Street.

The neighbourhood plan, which passed a referendum last year,  did not allocate the land for development.

But planning inspector Robert Parker has allowed the appeal, meaning Mr Facy can go ahead and build a pair of two-bedroom cottages and two four- or five-bedroom houses.

The parish council had objected and South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, rejected the application in April on the grounds that the development would increase the volume of traffic.

Mr Parker said the scheme would not have an “unacceptable” impact on highway safety.

He said: “The proposal would use an existing point of access on to Brook Street, diagonally opposite Davenport Place.

“I have been provided with no substantive evidence to demonstrate that restricted visibility has led to collisions.

“Although the council has drawn my attention to one recorded accident near the site, this was between a car and a pedal cycle.

“Although the full circumstances are not before me, there is nothing to suggest that the incident was caused by substandard visibility at the site access.

“It is not unusual for vehicular accesses in historic environments to conflict with modern road layout design standards.

“However, that is not to say that they are always dangerous or unsafe.

“The junction of Davenport and Brook Street serves a greater number of dwellings than would be the case for the appeal site access, yet this operates safely with a similar (or worse) standard of visibility in the westerly direction.

“I note the local concerns regarding the principle of development. The site is not allocated for development but its location within the built-up limits of the settlement means that it can be reasonably described as a ‘windfall’.”

Mr Parker conceded there would be “some harm” to the Watlington conservation area but added: “Against this, I must weigh the public benefits of delivering four new homes within walking distance of local facilities and services.

“Those homes would comprise a mix of sizes. The scheme would also bring environmental gains through the planting of a new orchard.

“Overall, the benefits would be relatively modest, but they would be sufficient to outweigh the very limited harm to the conservation area. The proposal would not have any other adverse impacts, including to highway safety, and it would comply with the criteria attached to development plan policy in respect of new housing in Watlington.”

In 2016, Mr Facy applied for permission for five homes on the land but withdrew his application after objections from residents.

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