Kidlington deserves better than this
The decision to approve the Co-op proposal went through on chair's casting vote after members voted 6-6 with one abstention after a lengthy debate. Our representatives, Alan Mackenzie-Wintle, Maurice Billington and Alan Graham were brilliant in Kidlington’s defence. Several council members were clear on reasons why they would vote for refusal, and spoke up against it. Nobody, except the responsible Planning Officer spoke in favour of approval. Bob Duxbury’s seemed deeply uncomfortable recommending the proposal. His own planning report gave many legitimate reasons for deferral or dismissal of the application. The proposal is contrary to Cherwell Local Plan, the aims of the draft Kidlington Master Plan, several planning policies and council's own design advice. It will profoundly damage the Councils own aspirations for Kidlington centre as detailed in the draft Kidlington masterplan. It is worth quoting from the Councils’ design Consultant’s report:
- “The length and scale of this building are monumental and it risks overwhelming the character of this route” (Sterling Road Approach);
- "A four storey building is “completely out of context with the surrounding area”;
- “I would recommend that the height is reduced to 3 storeys and the third storey is set back…”.
- “It is my view that the proposed development is too dense for the site. This has led to significant concerns around the scale and massing of development alongside public realm issues. The scale of development along Sterling Road Approach will confuse the relationship between this area and the High Street. While the Council is comfortable with the principle of residential apartment development in this area, a substantial reduction in the number of units is required alongside significant changes to the design and massing of the building for the proposals to be acceptable”.
Anyone can see that filling the Co-op car park with a massive block of flats will overwhelm the village centre. Yet somehow the planning officer was persuaded that the proposal would “fundamentally change and improve the area’. He explained that … design is subjective …. His opinion beat the councils own design expert and every villager who took part in the consultation.
This analysis still stands. The approved proposal is substantially the same 4 storey block with cosmetic changes.
The proposal will result in the loss of a significant amount of retail floorspace and is therefore contrary to policy Kidlington 2. Mr Duxbury explained that the Co-op have decided to downscale and were not prepared to trade flats for retail units.
OCC Transport group in their comments on the proposal stated that “Parking provision is considerably lower than standards for Cherwell urban areas” and express concern “about the low level of visitor parking. By removing car parking spaces it is likely to take away some passing trade and damage local businesses.
Let us be clear that the Parish council, District Councillors and large numbers of Kidlington residents objected because
Kidlington deserves much better.
A wonderful , never to be repeated opportunity to enhance the village and grow local trade has been lost. The developers are being allowed to maximise short term gain at the long term expense of Kidlington. So little weight was given to the many objections and reservations from the public, the parish council, and statutory consultees, and to CDC's own planning policies that one can only feel the planning system is seriously malfunctioning.
Midshire Co-op's legacy for Kidlington will be a ‘monolithic structure’ that will dwarf the centre, destroy pedestrian routes and drastically reduce parking and retail space,
Parallels were drawn with the Oxford’s misguided permission for the oversized Castle Mill flats at Port Meadow. We are astonished that the Kidlington Coop development was approved despite this precedent. Cherwell have deliberately ignored the consequences for the village.
Sadly, the full scale of this betrayal will only be revealed
once the flats are built.