Friday, 24 September 2021

Care home and housing bid for village outskirts

DOZENS of new houses and possibly a care home for the elderly could be built on farmland at the western outskirts of Woodcote.

Custom Land, of Birmingham, is seeking outline planning permission for up to either 80 dwellings or up to 66 plus a 60-bed facility on a 4.88-hectare field between South Stoke Road and Behoes Lane.

The firm, which is working with landowner the Rumsey Trust, of Didcot, has proposed a mix of two- to five-bedroom homes, the balance of which would be determined by a separate, more detailed planning application.

Whichever option is pursued, it says up to 40 per cent of the houses would be “affordable” in line with South Oxfordshire District Council’s policies and those of the village’s neighbourhood plan.

About three-quarters of the affordable units would be for rent at rates fixed below the market value while the remainder would be sold, most likely under a shared equity scheme. Most would have three bedrooms or fewer. A section of South Stoke Road would be redirected through the new development while the old section would be retained as access for existing residents. New traffic-calming measures would be installed.

The developer would provide pedestrian and cycle access from Behoes Lane and Wayside Green as well as about 2.2 hectares of public green space and up to six additional plots for people to build their own homes.

It would also provide a children’s play area and money towards widening the pavements elsewhere in the village, which it says will encourage residents to walk or use public transport.

It says hedges around the site would be preserved to protect residents’ privacy and provide a home for wildlife. It has commissioned a report which claims this will offset the impact on the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The site is not earmarked for development under the neighbourhood plan, which passed a referendum in 2014, nor is it being considered for inclusion in the revised draft.

Custom Land says the care home option would create 60 jobs and either option would create an additional 60 during the construction phase, which would take just over two years.

It says the application “has the potential to enhance, rather than undermine” the look of the area by establishing a “new settlement edge” and “sense of arrival… and enhanced transition between town and country.”

It says Woodcote is a “larger village” so the principle of development is acceptable as it has a good number of shops, a primary and secondary school and good bus links to Reading and Oxford plus the train station at Goring, which serves London.

It says the care home and 66 houses would represent a 12 per cent increase in the size of the village and this is not “disproportionate” for larger villages according to the district’s local plan. The developer’s agent Star Planning told the district council: “There is a need for general housing in Woodcote, including family homes and smaller dwellings, suitable for providing a cross-section of accommodation.

“The application, whichever option is pursued, can meet the housing needs of the community in a location adjacent to a local service centre whilst still conserving the landscape. No significant adverse impacts have been identified which outweigh the clear benefits.”

There have been four attempts to develop the site since the Sixties, the most recent of which was an application for up to 115 homes, which was refused in 2011. The district council sided with about 400 objectors who said it was outside the village boundary and would affect neighbours’ quality of life while the roads couldn’t take increased traffic.

Geoff Botting, the parish council’s vice-chairman, said: “I expect there will be problems as it doesn’t comply with the neighbourhood plan, the local plan or national policy.”

The district council will make the final decision by August 1.

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