RESIDENTS and councillors say they are “extremely disappointed” after a developer wanting to build 270 houses on the north-west edge of Witney was told it did not have to assess environmental risks.
Gladman Developments was told in May by West Oxfordshire Dist-rict Council that it must carry out an environmental impact survey before it would consider the compnay’s proposal for land off Burford Road, above the River Windrush.
But the Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government has overruled the council and the plans have now been submitted without an environmental study.
The application does include a flood risk assessment, in which there is said to be a “low risk.”
Witney Central ward district councilor Andrew Coles said: “We’re extremely disappointed that the Government has ruled in favour of the developer. It’s absolutely crazy, because of the flooding in the area and the impact it can have on the rest of the town. It’s also an important wildlife area.
“That area has held up excess water but once it gets concreted over, that will just go straight into the town.”
Jennie Allen, the chairman of the Windrush Valley Protection Group, which was set up by residents to oppose the plan, said: “In light of Witney’s known flood problems, it would have made sense for an environmental impact study to be conducted.
“This site is sensitive for a lot of reasons, including its landscape and health and safety. Residents in the flood risk areas are appalled this is even being considered.”
More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition opposing the proposals.
The developer has said it would use balancing ponds to store water during periods of heavy rain, which would be released after the risk of flooding had passed.
The site is not among those proposed for housing in the council’s draft Local Plan, which is currently out to public consultation.
Ms Allen, an environmental consultant who lives in Burford Road, said she was “not surprised” flooding was deemed low-risk, because the site was just outside the main Windrush Valley flood plain.
But she added: “On paper it might look low-risk, but in practice it’s a different story. They’ve still got further work to do to know for certain whether this will work.”
Burford Road resident Roger Lee, 69, a retired bank manager, said: “I see wildlife like badgers and foxes come into my garden all the time, which I film with an infra-red camera, but this could stop that.”
The council’s cabinet member for planning and housing, Warwick Robinson, said: “This is a sensitive greenfield site and, although we have been told by the Housing Minister that an environmental impact assessment is not a requirement, he has stated clearly that this does not indicate a green light for planning permission.
“The application must be determined by the planning committee in the usual way.”
No one was available for comment at Gladman Homes.
For more information about the Windrush Valley Protection Group, see windrushvalleyprotectiongroup.org