The Planning Inspectorate has approved construction of the Sonning Common retirement development on a greenfield site within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The ‘village’ will have 133 ‘age-appropriate’ properties, as well as communal facilities open to both residents and the local community. These will include a restaurant, cafe, hairdressers, cinema, library and craft rooms, as well as a ‘wellness’ centre with a swimming pool, steam room, sauna, treatment rooms and a gym.
Both the local parish council and South Oxfordshire City Council opposed the development but the planning inspector said the new properties were needed.
Inspired Villages is now on track to deliver 5,000 homes for over 65s, including its six operational retirement villages and four sites under construction.
Development director Neal Dale said: “Achieving planning permission for our Sonning Common community is a huge win for us and an important step in our portfolio expansion, allowing us to provide suitable housing for over 65s in the South Oxfordshire area. We know the demand for age-appropriate homes is there, and receiving the green light from the Planning Inspectorate allows us to continue to support the physical and mental wellbeing of older people across the UK.”
Many residents of the Chilterns are already up in arms about the construction of HS2 and the prospect of more construction work in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is politically sensitive. In the Chesham & Amersham by-election last month the Conservatives lost a 16,000 majority to the Liberal Democrats, widely attributed to anti-development and anti-Brexit sentiments among traditionally core Conservatives.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the government has today proposed expanding the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has asked Natural England to explore possibilities.