A £100m river crossing road linking Didcot and the Science Centre at Culham is a high priority in South Oxfordshire District Council’s latest draft of the Local Plan (LP) which was published on 29th March. The blue print for development until 2033 also includes the provision of nearly 21,000 new homes.
About 3,500 are proposed at Culham and up to 2,100 at Berinsfield. The old Chalgrove airfield site is planned to take 3,000 homes. The Culham site is regarded as ideal for housing because it’s next to the railway station and Science Centre. The number of new houses at Culham would be capped at 750 until the new Didcot-Culham river crossing road is fully funded.
Speaking at the launch of the Local Plan (LP) to town and parish councillors in Didcot the leader of the district council John Cotton said the proposed new river crossing road was an important part of the improved road infrastructure programme.
He said: “We know there are increasing pressures at the Clifton Hampden cross roads and bridge and on other roads in the area. We are working hard to get the new road built sooner rather than later.”
Long Wittenham Parish Council has been campaigning for the new river crossing road to be built. It is seen as vital to take ever increasing volumes of traffic out of the village, particularly as work starts later this year on the Ladygrove expansion north-east of Didcot which encroaches on the southern end of the parish boundary.
The LP shows land is safeguarded for proposed bypasses at Clifton Hampden, a northern perimeter road at Didcot, a science bridge at Didcot and improvements to the A4130 and B4493, the central Didcot corridor. Also earmarked are bypasses for Stadhampton, Wallingford, Benson, south Abingdon and a new park-and-ride at Sandford-on-Thames.
Improvements to Didcot and Culham railway stations are also listed. But not all the road schemes have been “fully justified or funded” says the council. They are potential schemes for the future.
Mr Cotton said an important part of the new plan was to ensure that developments were accompanied by new roads, schools and other facilities including more employment zones in Didcot and the Culham Science Centre.
It’s proposed that Wallingford, Thame and Henley will accommodate 1,100 new homes and smaller villages like Long Wittenham 500 in total. Under the new LP small village housing allocation has gone up to ten per-cent.
Long Wittenham would be expected to provide about 35 to 40 new homes between now and 2033.
Mr Cotton urged villages to work on Neighbourhood Development Plans (NDP) to help safeguard their communities from developers. Ther are concerns that some already adopted Neighbourhood Plans are being over-ridden because the district council is unable to meet its housing requirements because of a lack of land.
He said the council had been caught out by five-year land supply rules which allowed developers to propose building on sites not in the LP if the council could not show that enough homes were being built each year. To ensure that enough homes would be built Mr Cotton said the council had included three major sites – Culham, Berinsfield and Chalgrove – in the new LP.
Mr Cotton said if developers fell short of their housing targets in a year then the council could do little about it but he was confident that there would be sufficient land available to meet the requirements.
He said he knew of no cases where already agreed Neighbourhood Plans had been ignored. Long Wittenham’s NDP has been completed and is out for public consultation. A village referendum is expected this summer.
Mr Cotton urged all villages to draw up plans for an NDP. He said: “It’s up to villages to determine what is possible for the future of their communities. Be ambitious.”
The chairman of Long Wittenham Parish Council Steve Brown said: “We have worked hard on our Neighbourhood Development Plan and following significant redrafting the final version is now going through its statutory consultation with SODC. It then has to be checked by an independent examiner. Following that there will be a village referendum.”
“We need everyone to support the NDP so that the parish council has much more influence over any building that might come our way. Otherwise we could see housing which does not help improve community facilities. We are promoting the Community Hub which plans for major improvements, a new school and pre-school, new village hall and outside play and sports area.”
Mr Brown said the proposed new road crossing the Thames from Didcot to Culham would be a major improvement to traffic in the village. He added: “Without the new road the developments planned at Didcot and Culham will almost certainly mean traffic becoming unbearable through Long Wittenham.”
Details of how you can comment on the Local Plan here.