Kler Planning Application Update

Long Wittenham Parish Council has laid out its opposition to plans for 36 homes on land off Fieldside known locally as Challis farm. Kler – the company behind the plans – has appealed against South Oxfordshire District Council’s delay in making a decision and there will be a public inquiry later this year.

The parish council has consistently objected to the proposals and says that the appeal should be refused and one of the main reasons is that the Kler development conflicts with the council’s Neighbourhood Development Plan or NDP. This plan involves building a new school, pre-school, village hall and about 40 homes on land off Didcot Road. The NDP will be put to a village referendum probably on 7th September.

The council says that as the NDP has reached such an advanced stage in its development it should now be afforded significant weight when considering planning applications and appeals. Part of the council’s case is that it would be premature to approve the Kler development as it does not accord with the NDP.

The council says the Kler plan would have “a significant negative impact on sustainability with only minimal offsetting benefits to out-weigh the balance of harm caused.” The council says it has serious concerns about some of the content of the Kler proposals.

The district council does not have a five-year housing land supply which Kler uses in its case. The council says: “The appellant relies heavily on the absence of a five-year housing land supply and refers to the presumption in favour of sustainable development.”

The parish council argues that Kler ignores several technical matters that the council has consistently maintained show the original application was invalid and also that other highways safety matters cannot be achieved.

The council highlights a number of proposals from Kler which would have an adverse impact on the village:

  • The housing mix does not match needs as identified in village housing survey.
  • There would be an impact on the conservation area, on the Area of Outstanding
  • Natural Beauty, the ecology and the area of Special Site of Scientific Interest.
  • The Kler development would have a visual impact on entering the village.
  • The development makes no contribution to improving sustainability of the village or infrastructure.

The council highlights highways concerns. It says the plan does not include land required for highway vision splays and also fails to include offsite works shown on the original plans, for example works to the footway along the east side of Didcot Road over the existing ditch.

The council maintains that the Appellant failed to serve proper notice and certificates as required by planning legislation and any subsequent consent would be incapable of being lawful.  The council will provide evidence that the Appellant cannot achieve the minimum required visibility and highway safety standards without encroaching on land not in its control and not highway.  The parish council will also provide evidence that other road safety matters do not adequately provide safe access for pedestrians, cyclists and parking.

The council will provide evidence that the village is not at this time a sustainable location in planning terms.  It cannot sustain development of the proposed scale without significant harm to, amongst others, the Conservation Area, Listed Buildings and Ecology within and adjoining the proposed development.

The council also argues that this development will put at risk the adoption of the NDP at referendum and that all the major improvements to the village that could be achieved would be lost.

The NDP has the potential to provide a new primary school, village hall and numerous other community facilities (collectively called ‘The Hub’).  These will be cross funded by a development of between 40-50 homes.

The parish council has agreements in place for the development of The Hub with a Landowner, a Developer and the Education Authority (including the Diocese) and expects to be able to progress these plans in the near future.

The council fears however that if the Appellant was to receive consent residents may be unwilling to vote in favour of the NDP.  This is because the two developments together would bring an increase of over 25% to housing numbers in the village, far exceeding acceptable levels set out in the emerging SODC Local Plan.  The council argues that there are no off-setting benefits and/or improvements to village infrastructure proposed as part of this application.

No date has yet been set for the public inquiry.

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