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Henley MP lambasts new housing numbers
Published 27/05/14



JOHN Howell has criticised a report that says up to 825 new homes should be built in South Oxfordshire every year.

The Henley MP says the figure is too high and is calling on the Government to review the methods used to calculate it.

The report, called a strategic housing market assessment, was commissioned this year to determine the county’s housing needs until 2031.

Consultants G L Hearn, of London, carried it out on behalf of Oxfordshire’s four district councils and Oxford City Council.

The authorities are required to do so by the Government as part of their housing strategies.


The document says the county needs between 4,678 and 5,328 new homes a year and South Oxfordshire should take at least 725 annually.

It covers a 20-year period from 2011, meaning the district would have to take between 14,500 and 16,500 in all.

South Oxfordshire District Council’s current core strategy, which runs from 2006 to 2027, only calls for 11,487.

This works out at about 547 per year, about two-thirds of the maximum recommended in the new assessment.

Mr Howell and fellow Conservative MP Ed Vaizey, who represents Wantage, have written to planning minister Nick Boles to challenge the findings.

Mr Howell said: “The report is a piece of evidence for determining housing numbers but is not itself the determinant.

“Unlike the local plans adopted by district councils it has not been through any rigorous testing process.

“There is therefore no rush for those councils, especially South Oxfordshire District Council, to adopt it.

“I think South Oxfordshire will come under pressure to change its figures but it should resist that.

“The figures would benefit Oxford City Council for its previous bad behaviour in turning every bit of its land into business sites and not making room for housing.

“They seem to follow the view that Oxford needs to grow and everyone else should take its housing, which is totally unrealistic.

“The assessment has obviously taken the worst-case scenario and built the numbers up on that basis.

“I don’t have an exact figure in mind but you’d think the range would be broader given the different possible scenarios for future development across the county.”

South Oxfordshire District Council is backing Mr Howell but looking at where the extra houses could go in case the figure is not reduced.

Ann Ducker, the council’s leader, said: “This will have to follow the same path as the full consultation we carried out for our core strategy.

“We will have to come up with several options on how the housing could be divided and then seek people’s views.

“It will be quite a long consultation with parish councils and residents and will have to go through an inspector before it is approved.”

Cllr Ducker said towns and villages that are putting together neighbourhood plans should continue working to the old targets.

She said: “At the moment nobody knows how the numbers are going to be divided.

“It will depend on what the consultation comes up with and I don’t reckon there will be an answer until at least the end of the year.

“It won’t mean they’ve wasted all their time and energy if their numbers are increased.

“Whatever they have come up with so far will put them in a good position to deal with any changes that have to be made.”

Henley and Harpsden are now consulting on a joint neighbourhood plan that outlines where 400 or more homes could go by 2027.

Henley town councillor Dieter Hinke, who chairs the neighbourhood plan governance committee, said: “I am very displeased with the whole process. I attended a lot of district council core strategy meetings before it was approved [in 2012] and we are working towards that one.

“I think it is totally wrong that, 18 months on, the Government would order another survey that would add to those figures.

“It is just a quick and easy way to boost the economy; dare I point out that there is an election next year?

“It could have implications for neighbourhood plans but it is hard to comment as individual towns and parishes do not know whether their number will increase.

“We certainly feel Henley should not have any further housing and the core strategy outlines why.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Oxfordshire branch has also criticised the report.

It has appointed a specialist researcher to produce a detailed rebuttal of its findings.



Published 27/05/14

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