Sunday, 15 July 2018

Residents to be asked what type of new housing town requires

EVERY householder in Watlington is to be asked what types of new housing are needed in the town.

EVERY householder in Watlington is to be asked what types of new housing are needed in the town.

About 1,200 homes will receive a questionnaire in the next few weeks in order to assess demand, particularly for affordable housing.

The results will be used as evidence to support the neighbourhood plan, which is set to go to a referendum in September 2017 at the earliest.

The move is an attempt by Watlington Parish Council to involve more people in the plan process and to ensure that everyone has a say.

Council chairman Ian Hill said it would cost about £1,500 to create the survey and have the results analysed with the help of Community First, which provides support to communities in Oxfordshire.

He said: “If the survey shows there’s a major need for smaller houses then we can include that as a requirement in the plan. If we don’t have solid evidence it’s difficult to make it stick.’

Councillor Hill said he was confident of a good response to the survey and hoped to have the results by the end of March. He said: “What seemed to come out of previous surveys was that there was a need for smaller houses and something that was readily affordable so people can get a toehold on the property ladder but also for bigger family houses.’

The survey was requested by the neighbourhood plan steering committee and forum with the support of the parish council. The forum was set up after a series of delays in the neighbourhood plan process and is designed to involve more residents.

Working groups are looking at different aspects of the plan, such as suitable development sites, the environment, infrastructure and traffic.

Cllr Hill explained: “At the moment the work being done by the development sites selection group is not anything to do with selecting sites, it’s finding out what sites are available.

“Last year when we approached landowners some said ‘no, we’re not interested in developing those sites’.

“I am encouraged by the progress being made and we would like to get it done as quickly as possible.’

Anna Badcock, Watlington’s representative on South Oxfordshire District Council, has warned that the town is vulnerable to development without a plan.

She said the delays in the process meant developers were now “pushing against the door’ as they had already been given permission for developments in other places, such as Benson and Chinnor.

It was important that sites and housing numbers were allocated and the plan was completed within a year, added Councillor Badcock.

• Benson Parish Council has agreed to employ a consultant to help prepare a fast-track neighbourhood plan. Andrew Ashcroft will cost £450 per day. The council wants more control over new housing and has been told that a plan could be completed in as little as nine months. The move comes after a developer announced plans for 241 new homes on farmland north of Littleworth Road.

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