Sunday, 06 December 2020

Mobile homes planned for site earmarked for new housing

PLANS to build 20 new houses in Woodcote with the community’s backing are set to be replaced with a more controversial scheme.

A developer wants to put 16 mobile homes on the old reservoir site at Greenmore.

Earlier this year, Richard Hazell, who owns tarmac firm Hazell & Jefferies in Whitchurch Hill, was granted permission to redevelop the land in accordance with the village’s neighbourhood plan.

The site, which he owns, is earmarked for 20 units in the document and Mr Hazell intended to ensure 40 per cent of the properties were “affordable” with rents or selling prices fixed below market rate.

But now another developer, Mr C Stanley, is seeking planning permission for up to 16 single-storey mobile homes, each with two bedrooms and accompanying hardstanding.

His agent, Angela Banks, from Aylesbury, says the site is suitable in principle for housing and a change to the law in 2016 means that planning authorities must consider caravan sites a viable way of meeting housing need and the mobile homes would be inherently affordable. She claims Mr Hazell’s scheme, which was approved by South Oxfordshire District Council in the summer, cannot go ahead after it was discovered that two mains water pipes run beneath the site, so the ground can’t be dug up.

Ms Banks says the mobile homes wouldn’t need foundations so could be installed without disturbing the pipes.

She says they would help meet the need for smaller units identified in the neighbourhood plan. They would be arranged in rows with hedges around the perimeter to screen them from the road.

In the application, Ms Banks says: “This type of development, unlike the previously allowed scheme, will be far less visible [and] will not harm the visual and landscape character of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“Whilst this application does not in itself provide housing, it does allow for residential units that count towards meeting the district’s housing needs.”

Woodcote Parish Council, which oversaw production of the neighbourhood plan and supported Mr Hazell’s proposal, is yet to discuss the new scheme but members have expressed concern.

Malcolm Smith, who is part of the plan’s steering group, said Ms Banks’s claims “aren’t exactly true”.

He said: “An aquifer runs beneath the site which feeds the Greenmore pond and they would have to avoid damaging the backfilled reservoir, which is capped off with clay and could contaminate the water if it was penetrated.

“However, when Mr Hazell’s plan was assessed it was found to be feasible following a geological survey.

“One might suggest this is being done to save money and, while I can’t speak for the council, I imagine there will be concern.”

Councillor Peter Sudbury said: “The rationale doesn’t sound very convincing as the only pipes on that site are from the old reservoir. I can’t imagine the aquifer would be particularly difficult to avoid.

“I can’t imagine this will go down well because it’s not the type or number of houses allocated in the neighbourhood plan, so pretty much everything is wrong with it.

“We were very happy with the original scheme and this may well get short shrift.”

Thames Water, which is responsible for the area’s water network, did not object to the original application.

The district council’s planning officers recommended approval and the geological report made no reference to mains pipes.

Mr Hazell said he could not comment.

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