A PLANNING decision to build more than 4000 homes has been deferred after concerns over healthcare, safe active travel access, sustainability, and biodiversity.

The proposal for up to 4254 houses between Harwell and Didcot at a development called Valley Park sparked concerns from community groups, residents, and the Liberal Democrats.

Blewbury and Harwell district councillors, Sarah Medley and Hayleigh Gascoigne expressed “extreme concern” over the limited health provisions for the new site, with potentially thousands of new residents in the area, but no new GP facilities.

Councillor Sarah Medley said: “We don’t object to new houses for people to live in, but these houses need to be sustainable, and built for need not greed.”

One of the key objections was to a roundabout in the centre of the housing site at the edge of Didcot and Harwell, with five exits and concerns over safety for cyclists and pedestrians wanting to commute to nearby employment centres and schools.

Read also: Hundreds given Oxford jab at Didcot vaccination centre

The Harwell Bicycle Users group (HarBUG) feared the roundabout would leave cyclists and pedestrians feeling ‘cut-off’. Businesses at the Harwell Campus also raised reservations about the roundabout as they have been encouraging sustainable travel, investing in cycle infrastructure like showers and changing facilities and cycle repair stands.

Alternative options for cyclists and pedestrians, such as a bridge or underpass, were suggested at the meeting, with the committee requesting developers explore further safe and sustainable solutions.

Liberal Democrats have campaigned for infrastructure before new housing and ensuring that new houses prioritise sustainability.

Councillor Hayleigh Gascoigne said: “This is a clear win for residents as their voices are now being heard, rather than just the developers. We now have a chance to improve the new houses to make them greener, make cycling and walking safer and ultimately make them work better for our community.”

Campaigner Sally Povolotsky said: “It was great to see a planning committee be so progressive and take on board the need for biodiversity protection, sustainable development and climate change concerns in their deferral considerations.”

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