Marcham community centre in jeopardy after landowner says 'no'

11:00am Friday 1st March 2013

By Pete Hughes

A NEW £2m community centre for Marcham is under threat, as the man who owns the land is refusing to agree to it being built.

Taylor Wimpey has put in a planning application to build the centre as part of a deal allowing it to build 51 houses on Anson Field in the centre of the village, near Abingdon.

Those plans were all approved, including a site for a community centre, but now a new plan has been put in, moving the centre to a neighbouring site. But Taylor Wimpey does not own the site earmarked for the community centre and sports pitches behind Hyde Copse.

And the man who does, John Duffield, has written to Vale of White Horse District Council opposing the idea.

Mr Duffield is a landowner and entrepreneur who lives near Newbury. His London-based solicitor, Olswang, wrote to planning officers at the district council, saying: “This application has been made in relation to the development of his land by Taylor Wimpey without the consent or approval of Mr Duffield, who wishes to make clear his opposition to the proposal.”

The housing and community centre scheme was unveiled by the Anson Trust, which runs the existing centre in Anson Field.

The trust was set up in 1913 to provide facilities in Marcham in memory of villager Arthur Anson, but for years has been running out of money and so wants to sell off its land for housing and get a new community centre built.

The plans divided opinion, with a parish council survey in May last year showing that 53 per cent were against the proposal and 47 per cent in favour.

In August, the Vale gave permission for the whole plan, including the new community hub on a different site that is also behind Hyde Copse.

Then in October the trust wrote a letter to the Marcham and District News stating: “As difficulties were being encountered finalising contracts, the trust decided that it was necessary to re-approach other landowners in and around Marcham and, as a result, has received an extremely generous offer from Mr Duffield.”

However, this week neither the trust nor Mr Duffield would comment about the difference between that statement and the letter of objection now with the council.

Taylor Wimpey submitted a new planning application for the same facilities on the new site belonging to Mr Duffield.

But on February 12, the council received the objection from Mr Duffield’s solicitors.

Taylor Wimpey spokesman Vicky Coyle said: “The Anson Trust is responsible for securing a suitable location for the proposed community facilities.

“Once this has been obtained, Taylor Wimpey will pursue the necessary permissions needed to build the amenities as outlined in the current planning application.

“The provision of the community facilities will see an investment of over £2m being made to Marcham.

“We are currently in negotiations with the Anson Trust in order to bring forward the proposed development and we remain 100 per cent committed to providing quality new homes alongside fantastic new community amenities.”

Marcham Parish Council, the Anson Trust and Mr Duffield all declined to comment.


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