Saturday, 27 February 2021

Next door parish unhappy at town’s massive growth

Next door parish unhappy at town’s massive growth

PLANS for up to 130 new homes in Watlington would be an “unwelcome” expansion of the town, says the chairman of the neighbouring Shirburn Parish Meeting.

Robert Parker was speaking after South Oxfordshire District Council gave outline consent for Providence Land to build up to 70 properties on land north-east of Cuxham Road and up to another 60 west of Pyrton Lane.

He said a “piecemeal” approach to planning and development in Watlington had left his parish and others at a disadvantage.

There was a lack of infrastructure for the number of homes being built in the town, which would dramatically increase its population.

The latest plans were at the very least “premature” and raised a number of concerns for adjoining parishes, said Mr Parker.

Both sites will contain a section of the proposed Watlington “edge road”, or bypass, which is set to go from the B4009 Pyrton crossroads north of Watlington to Britwell Road in the south.

It is seen as vital in helping to take traffic out of the town centre and improving air quality.

Mr Parker said the route and justification for the road had not been confirmed.

It was still subject to an “optioneering” exercise by Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, and this included a “do nothing” option.

Mr Parker said: “The adjoining parish of Pyrton in their neighbourhood plan anticipated providing 15 to 20 new dwellings in the life of that plan.

“South Oxfordshire District Council approved in 2018 a scheme for 37 retirement homes and a 35,000 sq ft care home and four staff accommodation units within Pyrton despite that neighbourhood plan specifically making no provision for the bypass.

“Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council are prepared to ignore this.

“This means that within both the Watlington and Pyrton parishes there is, so far, a total of consented, or to be determined, major sites for 454 units and a 60-bed care home.

“Already this will have increased the population of Watlington by approximately 50 per cent.

“There is insufficient infrastructure within Watlington to meet the demand that these additional houses will require.

“Despite the population of Watlington increasing by approximately 50 per cent, no scheme provides for additional medical facilities or schooling.”

An application has also been made to redevelop the care home element to create a new block of 34 “affordable” flats for people aged 55 and over.

Mr Parker said: “There will be a major impact on the local road network. The bypass will not just serve Watlington but is part of a wider road network to link surrounding villages, including Chalgrove Airfield, with the link from the A34 towards Cambridge.

“Despite having a B road classification, the B4009 is in danger of becoming a major link to the M40 with the consequential traffic congestion through the conservation village or Shirburn with its listed buildings.

“How can a bypass be effective or safe if it winds beside or through three or four residential housing estates?

“The bypass has been a longstanding ambition of Watlington Parish Council but this can only be sustained and financed by the significant increase in the housing numbers now being forced upon both Watlington and Pyrton and other adjoining parishes and the local road network.”

Local parishes did not have the resources of a county or district council to oppose these schemes or to defend their land and heritage against developers and speculators who were able to engage professional consultants to support their case, he said.

Mr Parker added: “We have to deal with the planning process as it is but it is far from satisfactory and I want to ensure that the impact of these decisions on Watlington and the surrounding parishes is properly understood and appreciated as it will soon be too late to influence this change.”

Both applications will be referred to the National Planning Casework Unit after a request for them to be “called in” by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. If this is agreed, the Planning Inspectorate will carry out an inquiry and Mr Jenrick would then make the decision.

Councillor Andrew McAuley, chairman of Watlington Parish Council’s planning committee, told the district council’s planning committee that support for development had always been predicated on the completion of the bypass.

He said: “The potential for a serious detrimental impact on the town centre and the air quality management area from traffic generated by development, both within the parish and the surrounding area, has been well documented.

“Therefore it is incumbent on all levels of local government to ensure that the risk to the centre of Watlington is mitigated and the only realistic way is by ensuring the delivery of the edge road.”

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