A DECISION to turn the car park of the former South Oxfordshire District Council offices into a temporary maintenance compound has been criticised by residents.

The planning authority, who put forward the proposal earlier this year, said the plan to use the space off Benson Lane, in Crowmarsh Gifford, near Wallingford, for two years only “makes use of the site” which has been vacant since 2015.

The former council offices were demolished after a triple arson attack which saw three buildings engulfed in flames: South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils' headquarters, a funeral parlour next door and a nearby thatched cottage.

The fires were all started by Andrew Main of nearby Rokemarsh, who was mentally ill.

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After the district council relocated to Milton, the site has only been used for car parking since and the planning authority will now use the space for five shipping containers to provide storage for grounds maintenance and other council equipment.

A welfare unit is also to be included along with space for storage skips and fuel tanks required to fuel ground maintenance vehicles.

As utility services were disconnected from the wider site when the main building was demolished, a new electricity kiosk is proposed to allow reconnection of streetlights along with a secondary security light and CCTV camera.

Containers will be positioned onto the existing surface of the car park and a security fence will be installed around the site.

Residents said they are unhappy with the decision as they feel the community wasn’t properly consulted on the plans.

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Philip Tremayne said: “I really don’t like the proposed fuel storage, we need to know exactly what the fuel is, the volumes and how it will be sorted.”

Elizabeth Burnell said: “I certainly think the local community should be consulted if there is going to be a fuel depot of any kind dumped in their midst.”

Philip Shuttleworth, who lives in Benson Lane, said: “It would be less intrusive on the existing neighbours if the shipping containers, the welfare unit, the fuel storage and skip area were to be moved to the back of the aisle of the existing car park, further away from Benson Lane. Such an amendment would be very much welcomed.”

A consultation period on the plans ran from May 23 to June 24.

Crowmarsh Parish Council had recommended approval with a temporary period not exceeding three years.

It said: “We are keen to see a long-term beneficial use of the old offices site that provides community facilities, but don't expect that a temporary use of part of the car park for this short-term purpose will impeded progress on that.”

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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers. 

Get in touch with her by emailing: Anna.colivicchi@newsquest.co.uk

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