Tuesday, 17 July 2018

More fallout from housing plan

THREE former Watlington parish councillors have defended their role in organising the town’s neighbourhood plan.

THREE former Watlington parish councillors have defended their role in organising the town’s neighbourhood plan.

Rhian Woods, Nick Hancock and Neil Boddington all resigned from the council’s neighbourhood plan core committee, blaming “uncertainty” over the number of new homes the town will be expected to accommodate.

They then asked voters not to vote for them in the parish council elections on May 7 and were not re–elected.

Now they have been asked to account for their time and the money spent on the project by Tom Bindoff, one of nine new members of the council. Councillor Bindoff, whose wife Gill was on the committee as a non–council member until she was asked to resign in October, said: “I think we should get some report from the three councillors as to why they have taken the view they have, rather than just the [resignation] statement. They need to account for their time and the money.”

So far about £18,000 has been spent on the plan, most of which came from grants from South Oxfordshire District Council and Locality, a network of community–led organisations.

Mrs Woods, Mr Hancock and Mr Boddington responded in a statement to the Henley Standard saying: “The neighbourhood plan core committee set out a budget which was approved by Watlington Parish Council and all expenditure has been in accordance with this. The core committee members are happy that the results provided value for money.”

Mr Hancock was chairman of the committee when Mrs Bindoff resigned. At the time, he said: “The committee was not working as effectively as it could have done.”

Mrs Bindoff responded: “I think it’s fair to say I’d lost confidence in the process so when Nick asked me if I would be willing to go I said I would resign straight away.”

She said she had joined the committee because she was committed to community–led planning.

“I felt it was a wonderful opportunity for the people of Watlington to be very hands–on in helping to develop the plan but it didn’t really head in that direction,” she said.

Watlington has been allocated 79 new homes to be built by 2027 under South Oxfordshire District Council’s core strategy.

The neighbourhood plan is set to be discussed at the annual parish meeting on July 9 and the parish council is considering whether to resurrect the core committee. A council meeting will be held on June 8 to discuss the issue.

In their resignation statement, Mrs Woods, Mr Boddington and Mr Hancock said: “The number of houses allocated will almost certainly be greater than the current 79 and quite probably substantially more.

“This level of uncertainty means that the basis for the Watlington neighbourhood plan at present seems unsound and further resource would be expended at considerable risk. The concept of neighbourhood planning is an excellent initiative, however it must now be given over to the new council to determine the way forward.”

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