Monday, 30 November 2020

Developer appeals refusal of Woodcote homes plan

A FIELD that is not part of Woodcote’s neighbourhood plan should still be approved for development,

A FIELD that is not part of Woodcote’s neighbourhood plan should still be approved for development, a planning consultant has claimed.

David Denham was speaking at a planning inquiry into an appeal by developers Jumquest, of Henley, and Beenlore, of Whitchurch, after they were refused outline planning permission for 10 homes on the land off Beech Lane.

About 20 people attended the inquiry at Woodcote village hall last week.

The 0.89-hectare field called Goats Gambol is not one of the five sites earmarked for housing in Woodcote’s neighbourhood plan, which states where 76 dwellings should go by 2027. The plan was approved in a village referendum, so is a legally binding element of South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning policy.

Mr Denham argued that the authority’s housing targets were too low to meet future demand so more should be allowed.

He said the housing would be “infill” development in a “highly sustainable” location and would not prevent development of the preferred sites.

Mr Denham told the inquiry: “The neighbourhood plan’s allocation of 76 homes is a minimum, not a maximum. That means that the granting of planning permission for some additional unallocated sites is not contrary to its aims.

“All local plans must be flexible to a certain extent in order to deal with changes in circumstance.”

Giving evidence for the district council, former planning officer Mark Flood said Goats Gambol was not an “infill” site as it would not be filling a small gap in an existing street frontage, nor was it surrounded by other buildings.

Furthermore, the development would spoil the character of the neighbourhood, which is part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Mr Flood, who used to live in Woodcote, added: “It’s true that plans must be flexible but this is about whether a specific proposal does or does not comply with council policies.

“It is my view that the site is not contained by buildings and should be viewed as land outsidethe village part of the countryside.”

Mr Denham said other sites named in the neighbourhood plan, such as the former bus depot in Long Toll, were also outside Woodcote’s built-up area.

He said: “The people who put it together have failed to follow the correct procedure by totally ignoring the district council’s site requirements for development sites. It is a kind of hypocrisy, is it not?” The planning inspector John Felgate replied: “I understand the point you are making but this appeal is not against the neighbourhood plan, it is against the refusal of this planning application.”

He said he would decide the appeal based on whether the development would harm the character of the area or create a hazard to motorists, pedestrians and wildlife.

He would also consider whether there was an identifiable need for additional housing and whether the applicants could overcome any “reasonable concerns” by making financial contributions.

A date for Mr Felgate’s decision has not yet be announced.

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