Green light for 250 homes near Cheltenham Sainsbury's amid access concerns

Controversial plans to build 250 homes on a Cheltenham beauty spot have been given the go-ahead amid concerns parts of the site are too steep for wheelchair users. Vistry Homes Limited And Stonewater Limited have been granted planning permission by Cheltenham Borough Council to develop the land at Oakley Farm.

Outline permission was granted on appeal in 2022 for the development which includes a new road access from Harp Hill. But now Borough Councillors have approved the access, appearance, landscape, layout and scale of the new housing estate.

A total of 57 people objected to the proposals for the 36.2 acre-site which were considered by the planning committee on May 30. Tony Clements, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said the developers have responded positively and constructively to comments from the planning officers.

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He said the proposed scheme was the result of a thorough design process. “From the outset it has been apparent that the site demands a high quality tailored solution that can deliver against the terms of the outline planning permission in what is a highly sensitive and challenging location,” he said.

Battledown ward councillors Chris Day (LD) and Helen Pemberton (LD) both spoke against the proposals. But their comments appeared to fall on deaf ears.

“What is at stake is not whether any development happens but that what is built provides good quality housing that is accessible to all and does not conflict with the council’s environmental targets,” he said. “The proposed plans fail this test.”

The approved layout for the site at Oakley Farm
The approved layout for the site at Oakley Farm -Credit:Vistry Homes/CBC

He raised concerns over the steep gradients and how the development would discriminate against wheelchair users. Cllr Pemberton echoed her colleague’s comments and raised concerns about the implications of the development for cyclists.

She said the steep gradients will “push people into using their cars” and the estimated extra 750 cars could create at least 1,500 extra journeys up and day Harp Hill every day. “A duty of care for our climate, surely is important,” she said.

“If we don’t meet that it is going to result in further climate damage.” During the debate, Cllr Paul Baker (LD, Charlton Park) said he supported the proposals and said it helps address climate change as there would be air source heaters, solar panels and no gas boilers on the site.

He also said the extra 100 affordable homes are “desperately needed”. “It’s a really excellent scheme,” he said.

Battledown ward councillors Chris Day (LD) and Helen Pemberton (LD) both spoke against the proposals
Battledown ward councillors Chris Day (LD) and Helen Pemberton (LD) both spoke against the proposals and raised concerns over the steepness of the site -Credit:Vistry Homes/CBC

“This is a great scheme and I’m really keen to support it.”

Cllr Frank Allen (LD, Swindon Village) echoed these comments “It does that and more,” he said.

“I’m pleased to lend my support to the design.” And Councillor Simon Wheeler (LD, Hester’s Way) acknowledged the development is on a steep slope.

“It is uncomfortable to think there will be wheelchair users going to have great difficulty getting up a hill. This is a hill there for you are going to have roads which aren’t ideal.

Cllr Paul Baker (LD, Charlton Park) said he supported the proposals and said the extra 100 affordable homes are “desperately needed”.
Cllr Paul Baker (LD, Charlton Park) said he supported the proposals and said the extra 100 affordable homes are “desperately needed”. -Credit:Vistry Homes/CBC

“I wish there was a way around it. Short of putting in lifts I can’t see how it would be done.”

Chairman Garth Barnes (LD, College) said it was a good scheme that will help deliver much needed housing. “No development is without its issues," he said.

"I think they’ve tried to mitigate most of the issues that are there." And Glenn Andrews (LD, Lansdown) said: “It’s hardly the Rio Favelas.

“We have hills, we are surrounded by them here in Cheltenham, we have to be slightly pragmatic on certain issues.”

Chairman Garth Barnes said it was a good scheme that will help deliver much needed housing.
Chairman Garth Barnes said it was a good scheme that will help deliver much needed housing. -Credit:Vistry Homes/CBC

The committee voted unanimously in favour of granting planning permission.

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