Monday, 04 July 2022

New developments need more trees, says council

New developments need more trees, says council

NEW developments in Watlington should have more trees to mitigate the impact on the landscape, say council officers.

Developer Redrow is to build 70 properties on land off Cuxham Road and 60 on land west of Pyrton Lane.

It recently submitted details of the scheme, including appearance, scale, layout and landscaping for approval by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.

The development would comprise a mixture of predominantly brick-faced one-bedroom flats and two-, three- and four-bedroom houses.

About 40 per cent of the houses would be “affordable”, 28 on the Cuxham Road site and 24 on the Pyrton Lane site.

There would also be a community orchard, a wildflower meadow, a play area and open space to the south-east of the site as well as cycling routes and footpaths linking the development to Cuxham Road.

However, the council’s landscape officer Hazel Osborne says that the information provided on the tree planting scheme and along the proposed bypass is insufficient.

She recommended more trees are planted along the Pyrton Lane boundary of the site.

Ms Osborne says: “The buffer planting to Shirburn Park is welcomed. However, the set back of development from the northern site boundary, and the area of open space, have been lost. These should be reinstated.

“There is a lack of any outdoor amenity space associated with the flats, either private or communal.

“Details of services and lighting locations are required, overlaid on the planting plans, to demonstrate that they will not restrict tree planting.

“Trees should be located so they have room to develop fully both above and below ground and should be set far enough from buildings such that canopies will not come into conflict.”

Commenting on the Cuxham Road site, she says: “The western boundary of the southern part of the site is open.

“Significant tree planting is required to soften and filter views from the rural area to the west and contain the new western edge of Watlington in order to protect the countryside.”

The developer has submitted separate applications for the sections of the bypass that will be delivered as part of the development.

The road through the site would have a minimum 6.3m-wide carriageway and would serve as a bus route.

At the western end, a new roundabout will eventually be built by Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, to serve the development and provide access to future development to the south of Cuxham Road.

However, Redrow has not provided a tree planting scheme for the road.

Ms Osborne says: “A soft landscape and tree planting corridor should be included to either side of the road, as indicated in the outline applications.”

Edward Church, the council’s countryside officer, says: “It is very likely that development will result in a net loss of biodiversity which requires offsetting.

“The position and layout of the spine road appears to deviate notably from illustrative plans provided at the outline stage.

“Drainage layout plans provided in the supporting documents show that residential blocks would encroach into areas previously identified for green infrastructure, landscape planting and public open space.”

Watlington Parish Council’s neighbourhood plan committee says it is concerned about the visual landscape and visual assessment of the development from the top of Watlington Hill. It also says the proposed white render on the block of flats could be “visually intrusive”, especially in the winter months.

Meanwhile, the district council has refused to sign off the tree planting and roadside lighting plan for a site off Britwell Road, where developer Bloor Homes is building 183 homes.

Adrian Duffield, head of planning, said: “The forestry officer remains unsatisfied on this point.

“As the details submitted still show conflict between the proposed street lighting and proposed trees, they are unacceptable. The submitted information is therefore rejected.”

The forestry officer said: “The trees will be adversely impacted by being planted close to the lights.

“Multiple trees are shown to be located less than 3.5m away from lighting columns, several are even closer, 1.3m in some cases.

“As the trees grow, they will smother the lights and need to be pruned. This in turn affects the condition and natural appearance of the tree, reducing its landscape value.

“Repeated pruning will limit the tree from achieving its full growth potential and providing the wide range of associated benefits.

“The lighting design needs to be changed to significantly increase separation from the trees. Reducing the number of trees is not an acceptable option.”

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