Wednesday, 18 July 2018

New homes totals set to increase

MORE homes could be built in Henley and South Oxfordshire than had been thought.

MORE homes could be built in Henley and South Oxfordshire than had been thought.

The Government has asked local councils to carry out a new survey to determine housing needs.

This comes on top of the core strategy drawn up by South Oxfordshire District Council and approved by a government inspector which allocated numbers of new homes to be built in towns and villages over the next 14 years.

Henley was allocated 400 homes but town councillors fear this number could be increased as a result of the “strategic housing market assessment” for Oxfordshire.

The survey will be carried out by a consultant and the results will be known in January.

It is not clear what effect it will have on the neighbourhood plans being carried out by towns and villages which are due to go to referenda that will make them legally binding.

Councillor Dieter Hinke, who chairs Henley Town Council’s planning committee and neighbourhood planning governance committee for the joint Henley and Harpsden plan, warned that people could “take to the streets” if the town’s allocation was increased.

In a letter to this week’s Henley Standard, he says: “Henley may have to revise its housing figures so our allocation of 400 homes could be adjusted upwards whether we like it or not.

“It puts into question the Local Plans, the core strategy and all neighbourhood plans. So much for localism!

“The government inspector who approved the core strategy gave many sound reasons why Henley should have a ceiling of 400 homes. We should insist that this reasoning is still sound and that Henley does not have the capacity for further expansion.

“If we are allocated more homes, then this is a betrayal to us all by a parliament which only 18 months ago promoted localism — and the core strategy for Henley — as a basis for neighbourhood planning.”

Councillor Mark Gray, who represents Benson and Cholsey on Oxfordshire County Council, called the assessment an “appalling development”.

He said: “When the core strategy was being prepared I think we all believed ‘this is it’ for the next 15 years. We could live with it because more housing is needed but for this to come along is something else.

“We spent hours and hours dealing with the core strategy. We had public appeals by developers and potentially that could all happen again. I think the Government has got a lot to answer for.”

The district council was holding a briefing for local councillors today in which more details of the survey will be revealed.

Councillor Angie Paterson, cabinet member for planning, said worrying about the results of the survey was premature.

She said: “We have to take notice of what the survey says but what it means for us at this stage we haven’t got any idea because we haven’t got the numbers.

“Nobody can say that there is going to be lots more houses. We think it could be the case but it is the wrong time to be worrying about it.

“The survey will inform the decision-making process. It will tell us the precise numbers and we will have to look at what it is telling us and how we can deal with it.”

She said it was too soon to know the implications of the survey on neighbourhood plans.

Henley MP John Howell said: “This assessment is not looking at South Oxfordshire, it is looking at Oxfordshire as a whole and the interplay between them will still have to be played out in the report.

“This is expected in January and at that point we will see whether any increase is proposed. It will then fall to South Oxfordshire District Council to see where it should go.

“The allocation was a perfectly valid document that was relied upon by the district council in setting its core strategy. It would otherwise have been subject to endless speculative planning applications which would probably have been granted on appeal.

“The district council has protected us very well and must now do some more work, on the basis of more evidence, to update the plan.”

Under the core strategy, 1,154 houses have been earmarked for South Oxfordshire’s 12 largest villages. Sonning Common, the largest village, has been earmarked for 152, Goring 109, Woodcote 76, Benson 96, Watlington 57 and Nettlebed 25.

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