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Villagers to vote on new housing in Woodcote
Published 21/01/14

WOODCOTE’S neighbourhood plan will be put to a village referendum on April 3.

The development blueprint, which suggests five sites where up to 76 houses should be built be 2027, has been approved by an independent examiner.

If more than half of the villagers who vote are in favour, the document will become legally enforceable.

The plan recommends that up to 24 homes are built at Chiltern Rise Cottage in Reading Road, another 20 at the old reservoir in Greenmore and 14 at the former Chiltern Queen bus depot in Long Toll.

The remaining 18 houses would be split equally between a plot at the end of Wood Lane and the Woodcote Garden Centre in Reading Road. Two other sites are recommended as reserves. One is next to Bouchier Fencing in Goring Road and could accommodate 20 homes and the other is north of the plot at Chiltern Rise and could take 16.

The plan says 40 per cent of homes on each site should be affordable and that a quarter of these should be available for shared ownership. It also says about two-thirds of the housing should be terraced or semi-detached and 80 per cent of new homes should have only two or three bedrooms.

The plan was compiled by a steering group of parish councillors and residents and funded by a £20,000 grant from the Government as one of a number of pilot schemes announced in 2011. The group held a number of consultations and more than 200 people responded to the final one and 80 per cent of them said they were satisfied with the recommendations.

Planning inspector Nigel McGurk reviewed the plan on behalf of South Oxfordshire District Council and praised the way it had been put together.

In his report, he said: “The Woodcote neighbourhood plan is the result of an enormous community effort. It contains some examplary approaches to neighbourhood planning.”

Mr McGurk said the process was an “excellent and highly commendable example of open and transparent community consultation”.

On Thursday last week, planning minister Nick Boles met the steering group at Woodcote community centre in Reading Road.

Parish council chairman Cllr Robin Peirce told him: “This is possibly the first neighbourhood plan to go to referendum which has been put together without the help of consultants.

“Residents of Woodcote care passionately about their village and have consistently and actively opposed any inappropriate developments over many years.”

Mr Boles said: “What I find remarkable is that, starting with a blank canvas and with nobody to learn from, you have practically invented the process and demonstrably brought your community with you.

“Most of you have no planning background but I think that is good because these plans should be driven by people who represent their communities, not planners.

“You have been exemplary and there is a lot that other communities could learn from what you’ve done.”

Mr Boles praised Henley MP John Howell, who helped develop the idea of neighbourhood planning as part of the Localism Act.

He said: “I acknowledge all the encouragement John has given communities to undertake neighbourhood plans. It has been most gratifying.

“It is also not at all surprising given that he was instrumental in developing the concept before we came into government and was responsible for helping steer it through in our early years.”

After the meeting, steering group chairman and parish councillor Geoff Botting said: “I think it is quite an achievement to have got this far. The minister was very complimentary indeed.”

More details about the referendum will be published nearer the time.

Published 21/01/14

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