Outline plans for another huge housing development in Didcot have been approved by councillors despite fears of traffic growth and its impact on surrounding communities.
Members of South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee meeting in Didcot gave unanimous approval to the extension of the Ladygrove estate north-east of the town. But councillors said traffic concerns must be addressed.
Over the next ten to eleven years the development will eat up 350 acres of landing providing 1,880 houses, 25 percent of which will be affordable homes. In addition there will be three schools, shops, a neighbourhood centre, restaurant, hotel, residential care home, a sports centre, playing fields, paths and cycle paths.
Infrastructure work on roads and drainage is expected to start next year and the development will be completed in phases once full planning consent has been agreed. The Ladygrove expansion will be on top of the continuing development at Great Western Park and the recently approved Valley Park for 4,000 homes on the outskirts of Didcot.
At the meeting councillors and members of the public from Didcot and Long Wittenham voiced their fears about the effect the Ladygrove expansion would have on traffic volumes and quality of life in neighbouring villages.
Tony Dearlove from Didcot Town Council spoke of his concerns about safety along the B4016 on the eastern edge of the development known as the “straight mile”. He said it was unlit, there was no speed limit and the road was often used by speeding motorcyclists.
On behalf of Long Wittenham parish councillor Gordon Rogers spoke of his “deep reservations” about the traffic implications. The road between Didcot and Long Wittenham was already busy at peak travel times and the bridge at Clifton Hampden was heavily congested leading to more congestion at the lights in Clifton village. He said quality of life was being harmed by traffic and air pollution.
He said: “A new road and river crossing from Didcot to Culham would relieve Wittenham, Appleford and Sutton Courtenay but that will be costly and isn’t expected for another ten years. We would like to see the proposed exit and access points along the B4016 removed so traffic would be forced to go south to join the A34 at Milton and not add to Wittenham’s already congested main road.”
Planning committee member David Turner said he was disappointed that only 25 percent of new homes would be affordable. He added: “A major problem is transport and infrastructure and it needs to be looked at more thoroughly before work starts.”
Another committee member David Nimmo-Smith said the development would bring many benefits to the town and district but he too had concerns about the impact on neighbouring communities from extra traffic.
He said: “In the short term traffic may get worse at Clifton Hampden bridge, through Long Wittenham and at the Jubilee Road roundabout in Didcot. These issues must be addressed.”
Steven Brown from the North East Didcot Partnership – a consortium of the landowners Reading University and Croudace Homes – told the meeting that the plans were the result of three years of consultation with the public.
He said: “This is a positive application that will bring many benefits to the people of Didcot and district. There will be 470 affordable homes and £45m has been set aside for Section106 contributions from the developers.”
S106 money is paid by a developer to a local council to offset negative impacts caused by construction and development. Money can be used to finance such things as schools, roads and recreation schemes.
The chairman of Long Wittenham Parish Council Steve Brown said later that he was disappointed that the two access points along the “straight mile” would be both access and exit because it would lead to even more traffic passing through the village.
Mr Brown added: “We must press both the county council and SODC to allocate money so that more traffic calming measures can be installed to slow down vehicles and make it difficult for drivers who want to use the road instead of driving south from Ladygrove to reach the A34 at Milton.”