Steve Brown, Chairman of the Long Wittenham Parish Council writes …
A few months ago Kler Group held a ‘consultation’ at The Plough to reveal their plans for the site behind Challis Farm. It was ‘successful’ in that about 10% of villagers attended and almost all made their objections known. Despite all our concerns the developer has now submitted a Planning Application and your input is needed, urgently.
On Tuesday the Parish Council held a special meeting to discuss this application.
About 25 residents came to the meeting. No-one spoke in favour of the plans.
The PC decided unanimously to ask South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) to reject the Application and to encourage villagers to object as well. Over the last two years SODC have been emphatic that any proposal for speculative development on this site would be rejected. Following a number of lost appeals they now seem to be softening their position. The voice of the village, if loud and clear, can help the officers and politicians renew their resolve to comply with their own policies.
We are very worried by the proposals as they don’t fit with the draft Neighbourhood Plan (NP) that has been based on your input, opinions and ideas. The PC decided to develop a Neighbourhood Plan firstly, so that in future the village would develop in an orderly way to meet the aspirations of residents, and secondly, to frustrate the ambitions of get-rich-quick developers pursuing only their own goals.
Just as a reminder, the primary proposal of the draft Neighbourhood Plan is to create a Community Hub providing 21st Century leisure and education facilities for all the population from pre-school to retirement. The Hub would relieve much of the stress on the centre of the village in terms of traffic, parking and visual amenity. The tit-for-tat in the Plan is that about 30 homes would need to be built on green field land to cross-fund the development. The Kler proposal jeopardises all our plans.
In contrast the only guaranteed offer in the Kler proposal is the building of about 14 ‘affordable’ houses. These would not be routinely allocated to people with a Long Wittenham background. No other village or community benefits are on the table.
Are you willing to put in a few minutes to help protect Long Wittenham?
If you are then here are some guidelines.
Your objections must address issues of planning. It is no good just saying “we don’t like or want” something. You have to give ‘proper’ planning reasons why you object.
The Parish Council has a voice with SODC but your objections really will count.
We encourage everyone to send in their views by 8th June at the latest and oppose this plan.
How to send in your concerns is at the end of this post.
The basis of the Parish Council’s objections are:-
- Long Wittenham is designated a small village and is protected from excessive development by the current Planning Core Strategy. Policy CSR1 limits development to small ‘infill’ sites. This is not a small development.
- The site is right next to the Conservation Area and Listed buildings. Planning Authorities have a statutory duty to protect and preserve these from the severe impact of new plans. We think a green buffer is needed to protect the conservation area and also the views to and from The Clumps (an Area of Outstanding National Beauty).
- The site will have a new access onto Didcot Road and a pedestrian access near to Fieldside and we are very concerned about road safety and increased traffic on this section of road close to a blind bend. The police have been monitoring speed here recently as traffic already goes too fast.
- We will point out that the development is not in line with our Neighbourhood Plan and doesn’t provide any new community facilities for the village. We should have our draft NP finished and sent to SODC before they consider this application and they should take the NP into account when looking at this application.
- Several of the supporting documents with the Application are inaccurate. For example, the Ecology Survey was done too early in the season and didn’t spot nesting House Martins on the site. These are an Amber protected species as they are at risk. There are also protected giant Snails living on the site. Also, they have misrepresented statistics from our own Household survey and taken them out of context and exaggerated some of the facts and figures. They claim 16% of respondents moved out of LW recently due to non-availability of housing. It was actually about 3.5%, and they also get census info all wrong too.
- The PC has been in discussion with Kler for almost 18 months and they have made several suggestions how they might contribute benefits to Long Wittenham BUT we are not convinced that there can be a robust legal agreement (S106) to get funds from the developers for Village and Community benefits. Without a solid legal document we will get nothing.
- We believe the hedgerow along the site is a Historic Hedgerow. This means it should be protected but a long length will have to be removed for visibility at the new accesses. This is not shown in their plans.
- Although Kler have commissioned archaeological work at the site and have a report, it has not been included with the plans and the County Council Officers are concerned by this.
- Also, you will have heard the news that we are losing our bus service which will mean even more traffic from the new houses.
If you want to support the Parish Council please make your comments in in writing in your own words but using planning reasons similar to those above. If all comments look the same they will carry less weight.
You can see the detailed planning application and make your comments at the link below:
Clicking on the orange “Comment Now” button will take you to a comment page.
Or you can email your comments to the Case Officer, Amanda Rendell – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you prefer to write, her address is:- South Oxfordshire District Council, 135 Eastern Avenue, Milton Park, Milton, OX14 4SB
Comments must arrive by 8th June if they are to count towards our objections.