Friday, 15 December 2017

Village 'needs more larger homes suitable for families'

WOODCOTE is facing a shortage of larger homes, a parish councillor has warned.

Peter Sudbury believes young couples with children who wish to live in the village are more likely to seek a property with three or more bedrooms than one with just one or two.

His claim contradicts the Woodcote neighbourhood plan, which was published in 2014 and says 50 per cent of new homes should have one or two bedrooms, 40 per cent should have three and only 10 per cent should have four or more.

This was based on a survey of villagers in which 42 per cent said two-bedroom houses were most needed. The results suggested that 79 per cent of Woodcote’s housing need could be met by houses with three or fewer
bedrooms.

About 45 per cent of Woodcote’s houses currently have four or more bedrooms and the plan says this is a “housing imbalance”.

But Councillor Sudbury says research conducted by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead suggests most people starting families move straight into bigger houses.

He says there are too few of these available in the village as they are occupied by older people who don’t want to downsize.

Cllr Sudbury believes this, not a shortage of smaller homes, is the reason why the number of young families in the village is falling while the number of over-65s is increasing.

He says this is borne out by the 2001 and 2011 censuses, which show a respective fall and rise in those age groups and the fact that Woodcote Primary School is undersubscribed in several year groups.

The village cricket club is also struggling to field full sides.

Cllr Sudbury believes that at least 90 new larger homes are needed to meet demand and this should be included in a revision of the neighbourhood plan.

He said: “The imbalance will eventually correct itself as the owners of the larger properties start to die but there will be an interim period where many amenities, clubs and societies struggle to function.

“People said they wanted smaller properties when surveyed but they are likely to do that if you ask a closed question.

“The push for smaller properties looks great at face value but I think a look at the demographic data changes that. The first neighbourhood plan was a brilliant piece of work but it must test its assumptions against the facts. Irrespective of the need for one-or two-bedroom houses, more large houses are needed earlier rather than later to stabilise the distribution of age groups.”

The parish council is in the early stages of updating the plan, which passed a referendum in 2014.

It is conducting research to determine whether demand for housing has increased and is likely to invite landowners to submit additional sites for inclusion.

Geoff Botting, who is vice-chairman of the parish council and chairs the neighbourhood plan steering group, said: “This is a strong concern of Peter’s but we are still carrying out detailed studies into future demand.

“We can’t say what the results might be but they will show whether or not he is correct.”

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