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Winterbrook 85-home plan gets go-ahead after developers win appeal

Plans for 85 homes on land west of Reading Road in Wallingford have been given the go-ahead on appeal.

South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) had opposed the scheme for the Winterbrook site by Surrey-based developers Wates in what was the third legal battle between the pair over the last five years.

But Government planning inspector Phillip Major ruled against the local authority when he announced his decision last Monday following a seven-day hearing at Howbery Park’s Fountain Conference Centre in Crowmarsh Gifford.

Wates had previously had appeals for 106 and then 98 homes turned down by the Planning Inspectorate in March 2010 and June 2011 respectively.

Elaine Hornsby, district councillor for Wallingford, said: “I wasn’t surprised when I heard the result of the appeal but I was disappointed. It really seems to be the luck of the draw when it comes to planning appeals.

“Applications like this are hindering residents, as by bringing in scattered developments across the town instead of a unified system that can be agreed upon, we just don’t get the appropriate infrastructure that the town needs.”

Wates lodged the appeal after SODC missed the deadline to determine the planning application by eight weeks last May.

In his ruling, Mr Major said he gave the firm’s application the go-ahead due to SODC’s lack of a five-year housing land supply.

SODC divides its housing quota into two parts – Didcot and the rest of the district.

While housing for the rest of the district is just ahead of schedule, the volume of housing earmarked for Didcot is more than 1,500 homes behind schedule.

Mr Major said: “[SODC’s] lack of a five-year housing land supply weighs significantly in favour of the development in the final balance. In this case, it has not been shown that there is a five-year supply of deliverable sites.”

Residents living near the site had previously spoken to the Guardian about the development, raising concerns about the suitability of a proposed five-metre wide access road and that the housing would infringe on the Winterbrook Conservation Area (WCA), as well as leading to tailbacks on the Reading Road.

The WCA includes the former home of world-famous author  Agatha Christie at Winterbrook House.

But the inspector said: “It is my judgement that there would be some direct harm to the character and appearance of the WCA here as a result of the scheme, albeit in a restrained form.

“However, even during my visits in peak periods [to the site] I did not observe anything which could be described as severe congestion.”

The three-acre site will see 40 per cent of the homes used as affordable housing, with open space, a community orchard and a natural play trail also provided.

David Brocklebank, group managing director of Wates Residential Developments Group, said: “Wates Developments has supported the proposal for a well-designed new homes development on this site for many years.

“Over that period the credentials of the development in terms of its suitability have been well proven and at a time when the need for new homes remains particularly acute.

“This high-quality and secluded development will be an asset for the Wallingford community.”

Plans for 555 homes on Site B to the west of Wallingford and 91 homes on the site of CABI’s new headquarters in Nosworthy Way are also due for determination.

Site B has passed its February 26 target decision date and the date pencilled in for the CABI homes ruling was yesterday.

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