Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Final chance to comment on homes plan

RESIDENTS of Woodcote have one last chance to comment on the village’s neighbourhood plan.

RESIDENTS of Woodcote have one last chance to comment on the village’s neighbourhood plan.

The blueprint, which recommends five sites where up to 76 houses should be built by 2027, will be formally examined next month.

South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, is accepting feedback until November 8.

A planning inspector will read all the comments along with the final draft of the plan before deciding whether to approve it.

If it is given the all-clear, the plan will be put to a village referendum and if voters approve it, the document will be legally enforceable.

The plan recommends that up to 24 homes are built at Chiltern Rise Cottage in Reading Road, another 20 at the old reservoir in Greenmore and 14 at the former Chiltern Queen bus depot in Long Toll.

The remaining 18 houses would be split equally between a plot at the end of Wood Lane and the Woodcote Garden Centre in Reading Road.

Two other sites are recommended as reserves. One is next to Bouchier Fencing in Goring Road and could accommodate 20 homes and the other is north of the plot at Chiltern Rise and could take 16.

The first draft of the plan was published at Woodcote’s annual parish meeting in April.

More than 200 residents gave feedback to the parish council, which made minor changes before submitting it for inspection.

The plan says 40 per cent of homes on each site should be affordable and that a quarter of these should be available for shared ownership.

It also says about two-thirds of the housing should be terraced or semi-detached and 80 per cent of new homes should have only two or three bedrooms.

This is to designed to attract younger buyers as Woodcote’s population is both shrinking and aging.

Between 2001 and 2011, the number of residents fell from 2,713 to 2,604 while the proportion aged 60 or over rose from 17 per cent to 26 per cent. Despite this, the number of dwellings rose from 950 to 1,012.

The average house price in Woodcote is now £365,000 — more than £80,000 above average for the South-East and more than £50,000 above the average for Oxfordshire.

The plan seeks to designate Woodcote community centre and library in Reading Road as assets of community value. This means the community would be given six months to buy them if the buildings were put up for sale.

It also calls for improvements to the village’s broadband service and supports the building of new public amenities. The village published parish plans in 1984, 1991, 2000 and 2008 but the neighbourhood plan would be the first to become part of official planning policy.

It was put together by a steering group made up of parish councillors and residents and funded by a £20,000 grant from the Government as one of a number of pilot schemes. Similar plans are being put together by Sonning Common, Watlington and the parishes of Henley and Harpsden.

Woodcote is much further ahead in the prcoess as it started in June 2011, when it applied to be a front runner for the scheme.

Councillor Geoff Botting, who chairs the steering group, said he hoped the plan would have been inspected by the end of next month.

If it is approved, the parish council might delay the referendum until next year to ensure that it is properly publicised.

Cllr Botting said: “We need as many people as possible to vote so that it carries more weight. We are by far the smallest community in the country to get this far. We had an email from [Henley MP] John Howell congratulating us on our progress, which was nice.

“Other parishes are really interested in what we’re doing — they say they can’t believe we’ve done it. To be honest, it surprises me sometimes as well but we’ve been lucky to have such a dedicated team working on it. We’ve worked flat out for the best part of two years and now it’s out of our hands. There’s nothing we can do except wait nervously on people’s feedback and the examiner’s conclusions.”

The plan can be viewed at Woodcote library or the district council’s offices in Crowmarsh Gifford or at www.southoxon.gov.uk/neighbourhood plans

Feedback can be given at http://consult.southandvale.gov.uk/south or by picking up a form at the library.

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