The four-day public enquiry into plans by the Kler Group to build 36 houses on the field at the corner of the Didcot Road and Fieldside ended at lunchtime on Friday 17th November following a morning site visit and tour of the village by the inspector heading the enquiry, Phillip Lewis. His report and conclusion is expected early in the New Year.
Mr Lewis was accompanied on his visit to the site of the former Challis Farm land by members of the Kler team, South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning representatives and members of Long Wittenham Parish Council.
Kler’s case is based on the need for more homes in Long Wittenham, but both the district and parish councils objected on the grounds that the development is not needed and is contrary to the recently approved Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP). The NDP should give the parish a large measure of protection against unwanted developments once the five-year land supply for SODC is re-established.
The main thrust of the parish council’s case is that the Kler plan represents a threat to the viability of the proposed community hub. This plan includes a new school, pre-school and village hall along with up to 40 new houses further along Didcot Road and adjacent to the site of the Kler scheme. Part of the funding of the hub would come from the sale of the current school and village hall sites on which homes would be built.
Outlining the village’s case was the parish council’s planning consultant Andrea Pellegram, supported by parish councillors Steve Brown and Peter Rose. Mr Brown, Mr Rose and local resident Mike Duff had worked to prepare the case. The district council was represented by barrister Robin Green assisted by planning consultant Philippa Jarvis.
The Kler team was headed by barrister John Barrett assisted by planning consultant Michael Robson and transport consultant Nicholas Jones-Hill. Three days were taken up by submissions and cross examinations from both sides. The last day on Friday included the site visit and final submissions from the three parties.
A number of residents of the village spoke in support of the parish council. Retired judge Patrick Eccles dealt with the legalities of planning issues; Catherine Harrison spoke on behalf of the pre-school and Jane May for the W.I. and Good Neighbours Club. Dominic Jarman talked about the harm the Kler development posed to the visual link from Fieldside to Wittenham Clumps, one of the most visited landmarks in Oxfordshire.
Also supporting the council was district councillor Sue Lawson. A letter was sent by the primary school’s head teacher Alison Mountain outlining the importance of a new village school. The village hall committee also sent a letter of support.
At the end of the enquiry Mr Brown said: “We received a mountain of paperwork from the Kler team about three weeks ago. It took an enormous effort to prepare our own case and then we got all the Kler documents. Two days before the enquiry we got their last submission which had to be dealt with before the enquiry started.”
He said there was valuable support from residents and he thanked everyone who attended the enquiry. Mr Brown added: “The Inspector now has to go away and consider everything we have submitted together with the evidence from all parties. Then he has to get it checked before we get a decision, which we hope will be early in the New Year.”