Residents oppose plans for a pair of gypsy pitches


RESIDENTS have opposed plans for two gypsy lands at Sonning Common.

Building contractors John and Cindy Ayres have applied for planning permission to develop nearly seven hectares of land near Bishopswood Recreation Ground.

The vacant land, part of a former WWII camp near Gallowstree Road, is crossed by a public footpath and is within the Chilterns Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Residents say the site is outside the Sonning Common built-up area and development would not be in keeping with the area and deter walkers from using it.

Some claim that there would be road safety problems.

The application submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council says each pitch would have a touring caravan and mobile home with a common room, two parking spaces and access.

He adds: “These will effectively integrate and be materially compatible with the surrounding landscape and the character of the area.

“The application site is obscured by existing vegetation and planting around its periphery.”

The request says the government’s policy is to address the “undersupply” of traveler sites and increase the number “in suitable locations with planning permission”.

In 2016 an application for planning permission for the houses on the site was rejected after opposition from the parish councils of Sonning Common, Kidmore End and Peppard.

The district council has received more than 70 objections since public comment on the bid began on September 9.

Rosemary James, of Orchard Avenue, Sonning Common, said: “The public footpath running through the site is well used by local walkers and cyclists.

“The site adjoins Old Copse Woods, Rotherfield FC, tennis courts and an area where children can play and use the skate park, safely. The site is not conveniently adjacent to a daycare centre.

“Access to the site with large vehicles is inappropriate on this fast and sometimes busy stretch of road.

“The site is outside the development of Sonning Common, which will have to cope with the unnecessary addition of a luxury retirement village and does not need more pressure on education and medical services, roads already congested, traffic and parking problems.

“The site has already been refused planning permission for the accommodation.”

Camilla Skinner, from Cane End, says: “This site is in the AONB and two gypsy locations would have a detrimental impact on local residents.

“I believe that granting permission for this specific type of use would result in increased traffic entering and leaving the site on this already very busy and dangerous stretch of road, where speed limits are rarely observed anyway. .”

Nadine Hambleton, of Conisboro Avenue, Caversham Heights, said: “The proposed site is a beautiful area of ​​South Oxfordshire and it would completely destroy it.

“Sonning Common is a quiet little village with a lot of vulnerable people living there. A gypsy camp would increase the pressure on services and roads and affect the general calm of the place.

Mary Neave, of Shiplake Bottom, Sonning Common, said: ‘The housing estates would have their peace disturbed. Dog walkers are expected to face more traffic and disruption.

“As an Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty it doesn’t match that and I fear it will encourage more development in an area that should remain countryside.”

Sean Davis, also from Shiplake Bottom, says: “The Bishopswood site is certainly of historic interest given its past use.

“I am concerned about the disruption and damage to the local forest. I don’t want this for my area.

Wendy Perry, of Sedgewell Road, Sonning Common, said: “Traffic along this road is already too heavy with drivers speeding, endangering wildlife and the hundreds of walkers who roam the woods and surrounding areas, not to mention the fact that it is near a nursery for children and a football club. The extra traffic would only make the problem worse.

“Sonning Common is already overcrowded with enormous strain on our medical services with multiple housing developments completed in recent years and a retirement village soon to add to this lack of provision.”

Michael Griffin, of Sedgefield Close, Sonning Common, says the development would not comply with the AONB and encroach on ancient woodland.

He says: “It would put additional strain on the Sonning Common infrastructure. Its medical facilities are already overstretched and it is even before the large population that the development of Inspired Village will bring.

“This would cause further traffic problems on an already busy road which is used by people traveling to a number of facilities used by children including a nursery, football club and skate park.

“Development at this site is unnecessary as sufficient accommodation for travelers is provided at an existing site a short distance away at Oakley Wood.”

David and Jane Pinder, of Wyfold, say: “This development is an intrusion into the AONB and would have a negative effect on the surrounding area and wildlife.

“This site has always been denied housing permission, indicating that it is not suitable for any type of settlement, including a gypsy site.”

Mark Plant, of Reades Lane, Sonning Common, says: “The local development plan included a comprehensive needs analysis and site assessment in its gypsy and traveler policy.

“Three sites were identified that were sufficient to meet the demand of this community. The claimant has provided no evidence that this demand has increased.

“The last sketch application for two houses in 2016 was rejected as unsuitable and unsustainable for any type of residential development and this situation has not changed.”

Jess Moss, of Maple Close, Sonning Common, said: “Previous planning permission for houses on this land within the AONB was rightly refused, so I hope the same in this case.”

Stephen Want, of Wood Lane, Sonning Common, said: “I object to this application on the grounds that it would be detrimental to the protected wildlife which has been observed on the site, in particular bats.

“I have repeatedly observed (both visually and using a bat detector) pipistrelle bats at the site. They are particularly numerous around this corner of Old Copse, I suspect due to the abundance of insect food associated with the lush vegetation growing on the proposed development site.

“Only an in-depth study would make it possible to establish the full extent of the occupation of the site by bats. Surely it can’t be right or legal to disturb a protected species? »

But Jack Kieran James, who is a member of the Facebook group SoCo Network, said: “Fantastic news. There should be more. A wonderful culture full of dynamism. It’s such a shame that so many people think it’s appropriate to abuse them and their way of life.

The public consultation period runs until September 30 and the council must decide by October 31.

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