Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Villagers accept demand for small housing developments

Planning viewpoint

ALMOST half of Woodcote residents believe the village’s housing quota should increase over the next 15 years, according to a survey.

At the moment, the parish must take 76 new homes by 2027 under South Oxfordshire District Council’s local plan, which was drawn up in 2011.

The Woodcote neighbourhood plan, which was adopted following a referendum in 2014, names between five and seven sites where those houses should be built.

But now the district council is writing a new local plan which will run until 2032 so the parish council must update the neighbourhood plan to match it.

All 2.000 households were sent a questionnaire asking people’s views on the number and type of homes that would be suitable as well as the best places to build them.

Out of the 71 per cent who responded, 49 per cent said that more housing would be needed while 30 per cent disagreed and the rest were unsure.

There was a slight preference for prioritising young families and first-time buyers and very high support for building small developments of 25 or fewer units with mostly two- or three-bedroom semi-detached or terraced homes.

Many said people with a “strong local connection” should get first choice of new housing and there was strong support for building on brownfield land, protecting the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and maintaining Woodcote’s open character.

Parish councillor Geoff Botting, who chairs the neighbourhood plan steering group, said: “There is support for extra housing but it is carefully qualified.

“In the past, the community would simply have said ‘no’ to new development but going through this process has educated people. They accept the need for new homes but these have to be of the right kind.

“We need small developments to maintain the demographic balance. People don’t want large developments which will take a long time to integrate with the existing community.

“There was a big wave of development here in the Sixties and it took decades to stabilise.”

Residents also said new developments should not exacerbate the existing problems with congestion and speeding at the war memorial junction, outside the two schools in Reading Road and at the junction of Goring Road and Bridle Path.

Councillor Botting has formed a separate working group to address these issues and its first priority will be to install a zebra crossing in Goring Road near the war memorial.

The parish council has agreed to fund the work but Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, says more research and public consultation are needed.

Cllr Botting said: “We have carried out checks and there’s clearly a significant speeding problem on that stretch.

“That road goes straight through the centre of the village and is a key crossing for pupils of Langtree School and the primary school so we need to make it safer. We’re working very hard to get this implemented as soon as possible.”

The working group is also liaising with the owners of Wards Farm, a light industrial estate off Greenmore, to reduce the number of people who park on the road nearby.

Any changes to the neighbourhood plan are likely to require a second referendum but this will not take place until the district council has completed its local plan.

Cllr Botting said: “We’ve had a brilliant response to our survey and are delighted that so many people took part as it means the response is pretty authoritative.

“A district or county council would be over the moon at that level of interest in a consultation. It shows that people really care about what goes on the village.”

The sites currently earmarked for development are Chiltern Rise Cottage and a plot to the north plus part of Woodcote Garden Centre, all off Reading Road, the old reservoir at Greenmore, the former Chiltern Queens bus depot at Long Toll, land at the end of Wood Lane and a plot beside Bouchier Fencing off Goring Road.

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