Wednesday, 22 August 2018

We don't want mobile homes, say councillors

PLANS for up to 16 mobile homes at a disused reservoir in Woodcote have been opposed by the parish council.

Members voted unanimously to recommend that the application by Mr C Stanley to develop the land off Greenmore is refused planning permission by South Oxfordshire District Council.

The 0.5-hectare plot is earmarked for 20 ordinary homes in the village’s neighbourhood plan and councillors said mobile homes were not an acceptable substitute for permanent dwellings, especially as none would be classed as “affordable”.

Furthermore, the developer would not have to make contributions towards the infrastructure, such as roads.

Landowner Richard Hazell, from Whitchurch Hill, has been granted permission to develop the site in accordance with the neighbourhood plan.

However, he discovered two water mains pipes underground and claims these would be disturbed when digging the foundations for the new houses but that the mobile homes proposed by Mr Stanley would not require foundations.

Mr Hazell owns tarmac firm Hazell & Jefferies.

His spokesman Frank Dixon told a parish council meeting last week that mobile homes could count towards the area’s housing quota under planning law. He said: “The neighbourhood plan speaks of the need for a more balanced housing stock with smaller, affordable homes suitable for older people which are single-storey and modest.

“That is the description of a mobile home and on that front the plan is silent. It doesn’t state that it is in favour of them, nor that it opposes them.

“The law states that they may be provided anywhere where the principle of housing is acceptable. They provide choice, which underpins this great democracy of ours.

“Many retired people will sell their homes and downsize to a mobile home to keep a cash surplus to live off. Young people also benefit — I spent my first years of married life in a mobile home and progressed on the property ladder.

“Do not dismiss this as something that people would look down their noses at. It’s something many people would prefer and find affordable as they cost around £200,000 while the properties I looked at in Woodcote start at £300,000.”

Andrew Gibbons, of Greenmore, who is one of 18 residents opposing the application, told councillors: “The problem with mobile homes is no normal mortgage lender will touch them. You have to borrow money from specialist lenders with significantly more interest, so a £200,000 unit could end up costing £600,000.”

He added that the mobile home owners would also be “at the mercy” of the landowner.

Council chairman Robin Pierce said that Thames Water had stated the water pipes could be moved.

He said: “It’s clear that the water main is not a reason the site can’t be developed in accordance with the previously approved application. It’s a matter of accepting that as part of the development cost.

“The whole purpose of the neighbourhood plan is to provide permanent homes and these units are temporary by definition so I dispute that this counts towards our housing need. The previous scheme did that admirably.

“I’m aware that people want to downsize but believe many wish to reinvest in high-quality housing for their retirement, not to purchase something significantly smaller in order to hang on to large amounts of capital.”

Vice-chairman Geoff Botting said: “This falls short on at least half a dozen policies so there’s no contest — planning permission should not be granted.”

The district council is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks.

 Mr Hazell said he couldn’t comment due to commercial confidentiality.

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