Picture: The site we want to protect is at the top of the hill overlooking our village.
Sonning Common is a thriving village nestled in the Chiltern foothills a few miles north of Reading. The countryside around our community is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Protect our countryside
By donating, you are supporting:
- The right of local people to decide what is best for their communities.
- Sonning Common's beautiful countryside setting.
- The Neighbourhood Plan and the volunteers who have worked so hard on it for the past ten years.
- Our local community, which backs the Neighbourhood Plan.
The story so far
The battle is being fought over a large field off Blounts Court Road, opposite the Johnson Matthey complex.
A speculative land development company – originally Inspired Villages, now calling itself Senior Living (Sonning Common) Ltd – applied for permission to build more than 130 apartments to make up what it calls a ‘retirement village’.
Picture: The site is to the top right, the ancient woodland is in the middle and Sonning Common to the left.
An informed local opinion
The field was considered as a potential development site by the working party given the job of revising our Neighbourhood Plan. It was surveyed by residents. It was assessed by a landscape expert. It was rejected absolutely because:
- The field is a crucial part of our beautiful AONB and building on it would have a devastating visual impact.
- It is beyond the edge of the village, disconnected from it and unsustainable.
- The scale of the development is huge and grossly out of proportion to what the village needs.
- It would impose a severe burden on our health centre.
Picture: the proposed luxury flats would overlook Widmore Pond, one of the most tranquil spots in the village.
A devastating impact
The proposal went to South Oxfordshire District Council which turned it down.
Now the developers have appealed against that refusal of planning permission.
A public inquiry, led by a planning inspector, is due to start on April 27th. The planning inspector will decide whether or not to allow this development.
These apartments will cost anything from £600,000 to £1 million each. The developers claim they are needed to provide dedicated accommodation and services to local people aged over 65. The developers say it is worth losing an irreplaceable piece of countryside to get their retirement village and the huge profits that will result from it.
They will spend a fortune on a legal team, whose job at the inquiry will be to try to overturn the will of the people of Sonning Common and the decision made by the local council.
Picture: A proposed apartment block would blot the horizon line of this field.
A real say for local people
We are determined to fight them every step of the way. We are raising funds to help Sonning Common Parish Council to put up its own planning consultant and barrister at the inquiry to argue our community's case. We will focus on issues of crucial importance to the village and support the South Oxfordshire District Council decision to say no to the development.
The inquiry will be held remotely and is scheduled to last up to eight days – which will make it extremely expensive. The costs are likely to be more than £30,000 – which is why we are reaching out to the people of Sonning Common to ask for your help.
Don't delay, support this appeal now
If we lose:
- It will inflict a potentially fatal blow to our Neighbourhood Plan.
- It will mean the destruction of a stretch of precious countryside.
- Worst of all, it will undermine and quite possibly destroy faith in local democracy.