Thursday, 24 June 2021

Airfield homes plan scrapped...for now

Airfield homes plan scrapped...for now

PLANS to build 3,000 new homes near Watlington have been withdrawn while they are amended.

Homes England, a government agency which owns Chalgrove Airfield, says its renewed application will take account of criticism by the Civil Aviation Authority.

In February, the authority wrote to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, saying it had “very significant concerns” and that the “development aspirations” should be discontinued.

It also said the land could not accommodate both a housing development and a testing site for ejection seats since part of it is leased to ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker until 2063.

The authority said: “There is no doubt that Chalgrove is of significant importance to the sector given Martin-Baker’s contribution to employment, the local and wider economy as well as UK and western defence.

“There are intrinsic problems with the vision of redeveloping Chalgrove Airfield. It is not our opinion that the current proposal could be improved or optimised in any way to accommodate both a housing development and Martin-Baker.”

In a statement, Homes England said: “The site is allocated in the South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035 and the importance of creating a new diverse, connected and active community at Chalgrove to urgently meet the considerable housing shortfall and deliver significant investment for the area remains unchanged.”

The old plans were for a “new town” with two primary schools, a secondary school, sixth-form college, shops, a healthcare hub community and leisure facilities and 40,000 sq m of employment space.

Watlington and Benson parish councils were among 22 which objected.

Bill Pattison, who chairs Benson council, said: “I think it’s a good idea for them to review it and it will be interesting to see what the new plans will look like.

“A big development like that is going to hit the area. Benson would be put under a lot of pressure traffic-wise with a development of that size with no adequate road developments.

“There is a need for new houses in the area but it needs to happen with the right infrastructure.”

Matt Reid, who chairs Watlington council, said: “The airfield is a sensitive location and Watlington has already taken a lot of development.

“It’s a waste of public funds and the whole project makes no sense financially.”

Objectors say the airfield is not a suitable site for development and have formed a campaign group to help Chalgrove and surrounding villages and hamlets to find sustainable alternatives.

It wants to ensure that residents and children not only have access to affordable homes but also have somewhere to live that doesn’t have excessive and unnecessary traffic and associated pollution.

The new plans will be submitted either later this year or next year and may involve new areas of greenfield and agricultural land to the north and east of the airfield that Homes England bought.

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