Neighbourhood Plan Update

The leader of South Oxfordshire District Council John Cotton says he’ll examine Long Wittenham Parish Council’s proposed Neighbourhood Plan in a bid to un-lock the proposal which have come to a standstill with planning officers.

A referendum on the NP was planned for this autumn but feedback from the district council said some of the policies needed amendment to ensure they were robust and could stand up to scrutiny if challenged.

These amendments will not change the core policy of the Plan to get additional community facilities in return for some new housing. As soon as the Plan is re-drafted it will be presented at another village meeting.

The parish council has become frustrated with the lack of progress. The situation has been delayed by a shortage of district council planning officers. Letters, emails and phone calls have failed to move the deadlock.

At the October meeting of the parish council members of the public vented their frustration at the delay in getting the NP off the ground following public consultation meetings which backed the plan. They called on the council to put pressure on the district council and wanted a deadline to be set on the negotiations.

District councillor Sue Lawson said she had been working to resolve the position and has spoken to Mr Cotton who had agreed to examine the NP so it would go before an inspector. Mrs Lawson said: “Mr Cotton understands your concerns and has agreed to look into the matter. He is keen to see village plans move ahead. I fully support the plan which contains affordable homes, the more the better.”

Parish councillor Peter Rose who’s leading the project said he was grateful for the support of Mrs Lawson and hoped the intervention of Mr Cotton would lead to the NP moving forward.

Meanwhile the parish council is continuing to fight proposals by a developer to build 36 homes on land off Fieldside, the site of the old Challis Farm. The district council is expected to discuss the proposals in December or January.

The parish council says it conflicts with the Neighbourhood Plan which is proposed further along Didcot Road. The council’s case is that the Challis Farm development does not provide the community facilities outlined in the NP – a new school, village hall, shop and some affordable homes among the 40 houses proposed. In addition the Challis Farm proposals are adjacent to the village conservation area.
Parish council chairman Steve Brown said: “We are strongly opposed to the proposed development submitted by the developers Kler. Although the company has made some changes to the original application the new plans do not address our fundamental objections.

“It is in direct conflict with our Neighbourhood Plan and does not provide the community facilities which are important for the future vitality of the village.”

“There are safety concerns too. There is no proper crossing from the site for pedestrians who will have to cross the road without the protection of the traffic calming as this will have to be moved down the road towards Didcot. Vehicles travelling out of the site would enter a busy main road with a blind junction on the right. The development would also have a serious impact on views from the conservation area and listed buildings.”

Mr Brown added: “If Long Wittenham is to move ahead it needs a new school, village hall and some affordable homes. We would also like to see a community café-cum-shop established. The number of objections to the original plan by Kler and the revised application shows the strength of feeling in the village.”

“After several public meetings the vast majority of residents want the parish council to forge ahead with the village plan for homes and vital community facilities.”

Earlier this year more than 80 villagers objected to the original application by Kler and a similar number re-affirmed their concerns when objections to the company’s second application closed on 6th October.

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