PARISH COUNCILLORS were “disappointed” to hear they may have to build more new houses than they expected when detailed figures for the government’s core strategy were revealed this week.
A total of 1,154 houses have been earmarked for South Oxfordshire’s 12 largest villages and parish councils were given provisional outline plans for their individual allocations from South Oxfordshire District Council.
Sonning Common, the area’s largest village, has been earmarked for 152 new homes, the largest quota.Goring is to be allocated 109, Woodcote 76 and Benson 96 while Watlington, which was expecting to be allocated 140, is to receive only 57. The smallest village mentioned in the document, Nettlebed, will be expected to build only 25 homes.
Barry Greenwood, chairman of Sonning Common Parish Council’s planning committee, said: “It is a figure which is not quite what we expected. We have always talked at a figure in excess of 100 houses, but the number is a little bit higher than I anticipated.”
Alan Strong, chairman of Goring Parish Council, also expressed concern, saying: “As Goring is completely in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and three conservation areas we are disappointed at the number. We were hoping for significantly less.”
Christopher Quinton, district councillor for Woodcote, said: “The 76 houses planned give a higher number than I would have liked. I was hoping it would be between 55 and 60 homes. It is lucky that Woodcote has a neighbourhood plan team which is currently indentifying suitable sites.”
Parish councillors were invited to a private meeting at SODC’s headquarters at Crowmarsh yesterday (Thursday) to discuss the plans.
The allocations are based on factors such as the existing number of houses, village facilities, the green belt and availability of transport. Any houses built in 2010/2011 are included as “windfall” in the allocation. However, parish councillors expressed surprise that so many houses were allocated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Geoff Botting, vice-chairman of Woodcote Parish Council, said: “The district council’s own policy says to do everything possible to avoid entering in to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, yet Woodcote is entirely surrounded by it and it also flows through the village. We would be particularly interested therefore in how the council is going to factor that in.” However, some parish councils were pleased with the plans. Ian Hill, chairman of Watlington Parish Council, said: “We had been given an estimate before which was 140 houses so this is significantly less. It certainly is going to be easier to accommodate that number but this is the starting point so the number could go up or down.”
Meanwhile, the district council has listened to representations from Henley and Harpsden councillors about the housing allocation for the town.
As reported in last week’s Standard, Harpsden Parish Council is determined not to be included in Henley’s allocation of 450 new homes under the same government strategy. In a formal document, the district council stated: “Although the proposed area to be covered by the Henley neighbourhood plan is Henley parish alone, sites identified in the capacity study outside the Henley parish area in Harspden are still likely to be needed for new housing.
“It is unlikely that all 400-450 could be accommodated within Henley parish area, so the number will need to be split between the sites inside and outside Henley’s parish boundary, with those outside being planned in South Oxfordshire District Council’s site allocations document.
“There is no suggestion of carrying out a completely fresh search for sites, nor of delaying the allocations-indeed a neighbourhood plan could prove a faster vehicle for allocations than the wider site allocations document.”
Councillor Martin Akehurst said: “We have already been given the range of houses for both Henley and Harpsden of about 170 for Henley and 230 for Harpsden.
“There should be a final version of the core strategy coming out any day now as it was supposed to be in September.
“The district council has done a lot of lobbying to get the number raised to 450 houses from 400.
“The questions are how it is split between Henley and Harpsden and what is Harpsden doing?
“I would expect Henley to go forward doing more public opinion days and get to the point that they have a plan that they could put to the electorate.”
Cllr Angie Paterson, cabinet member for planning at SODC said: “At this stage no decision has been made about how much housing might be allocated at each vilage.
“Some of the information provided to the parishes is an illustration of what the outcome would be if a strict proportional approach were to be applied.
“The process of preparing the site allocations document will take many months and there will be a number of public consultations which will provide everyone with the opportunity to examine the emerging proposals and comment on them.”
An SODC spokesman said: “We are providing briefings to parishes this week and have sent them some information in advance, to give them time to think about the issues it raises.
“As the paper says, this is a starting point for discussion based on proportional allocation. It is likely to need to be modified by consideration of various factors.”