Tuesday, 01 December 2020

New homes would spoil lovely view, say villagers

PLANS for dozens of new houses and possibly a care home in Woodcote have sparked huge opposition.

More than 100 villagers have written to South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, urging it to reject Custom Land’s application to develop a 4.88-hectare field between South Stoke Road and Behoes Lane.

The Birmingham company is seeking outline planning permission for either up to 80 dwellings or up to 66 plus a 60-bed care home.

It is proposing a mix of two- to five-bedroom homes, the balance of which would be determined in a more detailed application.

Opponents say the proposals should be refused because the land isn’t earmarked for development in the Woodcote neighbourhood plan, which was published in 2014.

The site has also been ruled out of a revised version of the plan which is expected to be published in the next year or so.

Residents argue the scheme is too big for the village and would spoil the rural feel of its surroundings, which lie within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as putting undue pressure on the infrastructure. Matthew Heath, of South Stoke Road, said: “This would be a massive scar on a beautiful landscape which has been protected for such good reasons.

“It overrides the democratic wishes of Woodcote residents, as clearly expressed in our neighbourhood plan.

“Woodcote has agreed to take its fair share of the new homes undeniably needed in South Oxfordshire.

“Our neighbourhood plan has been a fair and totally transparent way to agree how our village should manage any development.

“This [development] has nothing whatsoever to commend it and is simply an unpleasant example of landowner greed.”

Victoria Hamilton said: “The district council has already identified land for development elsewhere.

“The application can only be seen as a group of individuals trying to gain huge financial advantage to the detriment of our lovely village.

“It would neither conserve nor enhance the AONB and the facilities in Woodcote are already overstretched. Main roads through the village are dangerous as there are too many cars already and public transport is poor.

“The secondary school is full with no possibility of expansion, the GP surgery is overstretched and there is no dentist, chemist or optician.

“The surgery cannot realistically cope with more patients, especially the elderly.”

Robert Payne, of West Chiltern, said: “At an almost eight per cent increase in the size of Woodcote, it should not be allowed as it would put a big strain on the number of services, especially schools, and cause congestion due to on-road parking.”

Philip Harrison, of Goring Road, said: “There is no exceptional reason for this development in an AONB beyond exceptional greed.

“No infrastructure exists or is planned to support it and access roads would be totally unsuitable for buses and additional traffic.”

Susan Sandford, of South Stoke Road, said: “The site is on the very edge of the Chiltern Hills, shortly before they plunge down to the Thames at the Goring Gap.

“This is one of the most beautiful and significant vistas in the South-East. Viewed from the west, the tops of the hills present a seemingly unbroken line of woodland. The proposed development would irreparably scar this view and would be seen from many miles around.

“The site is in the AONB, thus covered by legislation preventing damage to the landscape. To allow this proposal to go ahead would render the protections afforded by AONB status meaningless.”

Custom Land says it would provide up to 40 per cent “affordable” units plus up to six additional self-build plots, a children’s play area, pedestrian and cycle access and 2.2 hectares of public green space.

It would also pay towards the cost of widening the village’s pavements.

The company says Woodcote is a “larger village” with suitable amenities such as shops and a primary and secondary school plus bus routes to Reading, Oxford and Goring, which has a direct train link to London.

The land is owned by the Rumsey Trust, of Didcot. There have been four unsuccessful attempts to develop it since the Sixties, the most recent of which was an application for up to 115 homes in 2011.

Woodcote Parish Council was due to discuss the application on Wednesday night.

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