Wednesday, 02 December 2020

Second chance to stop housing target increase

A SECOND public consultation on proposals to increase South Oxfordshire’s housing targets will begin next month.

A SECOND public consultation on proposals to increase South Oxfordshire’s housing targets will begin next month.

The district must currently find space for at least 11,487 new homes during the period 2006 to 2027, an average of 547 a year.

But in May last year an independent study said it should take between 14,500 and 16,500 homes from 2011 to 2031, or 725 to 825 a year.

The district council commissioned the report, called a strategic housing market assessment, after the Government asked all councils to do so.

The document is part of the evidence for its new local plan, which will be published in 2017 and will decide its housing policy until 2031.

The council argues that the revised figure is too high but held a public consultation last summer to consider where the extra houses could go in case it loses the argument.

Now it is to consult on three options out of an original list of eight but these haven’t been revealed yet. One of the original options would have seen Henley’s housing target increase from 450 to between 640 and 760.

The combined total for Sonning Common, Benson, Goring, Watlington, Woodcote and Nettlebed would have increased from 540 to between 864 and 1,031.

Another option would have increased Henley’s quota to between 690 and 810 while Watlington, Benson and Sonning Common would have to take 205 to 312 extra homes between them.

Other possibilities included a new town near Benson and Watlington or further north-east in the district or concentrating development at the Reading and Oxford borders.

Some or all of the houses could be built in the so-called “science vale” near Abingdon and Didcot, leaving Henley and surrounding villages untouched. After the latest consultation, the district council will name its preferred option and then hold a final consultation.

A breakdown of the 700 responses to the first consultation will be published next month.

Council leader John Cotton said: “We’d like to know why more residents didn’t take part because the minute you suggest a housing estate next to where they live, they’re up in arms about it.

“This is a very important decision we’re facing and if people don’t come forward then somebody else will have to make it for them. I know some people don’t want any more houses but that isn’t an option as we need more people in the district to increase our economic growth.

“It doesn’t have to be thousands of people, it could be more modest if we could identify constraints that would stop us building more houses.

“I have my impression of the situation, as do our officers, but we need to hear from as many people as possible.”

Henley MP John Howell said: “I think the council is absolutely doing the right thing. The number proposed was without constraints and so these need to be identified with regard to the specific circumstances in each location.

“Hopefully, it will result in a curtailment of the large numbers that we originally saw.”

Henley, Sonning Common, and Watlington are compiling neighbourhood plans based on the current target while Woodcote published one last year. The district council has advised them to continue as usual and update it if necessary.

Councillor Dieter Hinke, chairman of Henley Town Council’s neighbourhood planning governance committee, welcomed the second consultation.

He said: “Hopefully they are looking again at those housing numbers and rethinking them. It would be preferable if a revised figure was published before the plan.”

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email

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