Thursday, 21 October 2021

District has enough land for new housing

UNWANTED development in the Henley area will be easier to resist now that South Oxfordshire District Council claims it is no longer behind on its housing targets.

On Monday, the planning authority announced that it had secured enough immediately available land across the district to meet the next 5.4 years of demand for new homes.

This means that its local plan, which sets policies on a wide range of aspects of development including location, size and type, has full legal force and cannot be questioned by developers.

Previously the council only had enough land to meet the next 4.1 years of demand, bringing it below the government threshold of five years for local plans to carry any weight.

In theory this made it easier for developers to secure planning permission as the council could no longer refuse consent just because a site didn’t conform to the local plan. Instead, there had to be a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.

The shortfall also invalidated neighbourhood plans, which are written by towns and villages and allocate specific numbers of houses to individual sites.

The council was temporarily protected by a government statement issued in December 2016 which allowed the policies to remain valid as long as there was a three-year land supply.

However, this was due to expire at the end of this year. Additionally, last year a planning inspector allowed 95 homes to be built at Thames Farm, off Reading Road near Shiplake, despite the district council refusing permission. He argued that the authority had narrowly failed to secure even three years’ worth of housing land so the scheme should be approved even though the site wasn’t earmarked in the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

Gladman Homes intended to use a similar argument in appealing the council’s refusal of its plans for 245 homes at the northern edge of Emmer Green, which went before a public inquiry this week.

The announcement, which formed part of the council’s annual land supply statement, means the proceedings must be adjourned while Gladman revises its case.

The council says it has enough space for 6,396 homes by 2023, which is 473 above the minimum.

Felix Bloomfield, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for planning, said: “It is good news that we can demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.

“This will help us to fight speculative development on sites which are not the most suitable or preferred while continuing to deliver on housing growth.

“While this is not a significant over-supply and there are outside forces that can affect it, we are working hard to ensure that it can be sustained.”

The authority is preparing a new local plan which will run until 2033. The existing one, which runs until 2027, needs to be revised because of increased demand.

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