Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Revealed: village’s five sites for 76 new houses

WOODCOTE’S neighbourhood plan has been published.

WOODCOTE’S neighbourhood plan has been published.

Residents can inspect the 44-page document, which recommends five sites in the village where up to 76 houses should be built over the next 15 years.

The plan has been put together by a parish council steering group over the past 18 months and shaped by feedback from consultations.

Residents have until June 10 to comment before it is put to a referendum, which is scheduled to take place in October.

The plan, which was unveiled at Woodcote’s annual parish meeting last week, calls for up to 24 homes to be built at Chiltern Rise Cottage in Reading Road.

Another 20 are suggested for the old reservoir in Greenmore and 14 for the former Chiltern Queen bus depot site in Long Toll.

The houses would go on the northern half of the depot site while woodland in the southern half would be given to the community. The remaining 18 would be split equally between a plot at the end of Wood Lane and the Woodcote Garden Centre in Reading Road.

Mike Hill, who owns the latter, has told the council he is willing to sell the land as the business is no longer viable.

Earlier drafts called for up to six plots at sites including Horns Farm in Tidmore Lane and Goats Gambol in Beech Lane.

These have been dropped from the final version but land owned by Bouchier Fencing in Goring Road has been added as a “reserve” plot.

The plan calls for more affordable housing to be built so that younger residents can stay in Woodcote when they leave home and for local people to be given preference for these.

The plan will be adopted by South Oxfordshire District Council if it is approved in the referendum, meaning it would be legally enforceable.Council chairman Robin Peirce said that changes to planning laws meant there was “a very real threat of uncontrolled, large-scale development that could hit us and other villages in South Oxfordshire”.

He said: “As far as I’m aware, Woodcote is the smallest community yet to have reached the point of having a definite neighbourhood plan and that is something we should be very proud of.

“It has all been thanks to the passion and commitment of the volunteers in our steering group. We have produced this document on a modest budget and without paying any large consultancy fees.”

Cllr Pierce told the meeting that it was the people’s plan, not that of developers or landowners.

“It’s all about the future of your village and I would urge you to find the time to scrutinise it in detail,” he said. “If it gets a ‘no’ vote it will mean a large number of planning applications for Woodcote, each of which will have to be fought off with no certainty that it will not get through.”

The idea for the neighbourhood plan came about in 2011 when developers submitted plans for 115 homes on the 11-acre Hilltop Field, off Behoes Lane.

South Oxfordshire District Council rejected the scheme amid protest from residents, who formed a group called Save Hilltop Field.

Councillor Geoff Botting, who chairs the plan committee, said: “The Hilltop Field application was a wake-up call because we became very conscious of the fact that Woodcote is a very attractive place to live and was in line for more housing.

“That, combined with the Government’s shift to a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, warned us that we needed to protect the village from being spoiled.

“If it passes, this plan will give us 15 years of predictable protection. We won’t have to conduct endless trench warfare against individual planning applications as they spring up.”

The plan can be viewed at Woodcote and Goring libraries, at the village hall from 10am to noon on Tuesdays and at the district council’s offices in Crowmarsh Gifford. Alternatively, visit www.woodcotendp.org.uk

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