Wednesday, 25 November 2020

D-Day nears on whether to go ahead with housing plan

A DECISION on whether to proceed with, delay or scrap Watlington’s neighbourhood plan is set to

A DECISION on whether to proceed with, delay or scrap Watlington’s neighbourhood plan is set to be made next month.

The parish council, which is overseeing the process, will present the advantages and disadvantages of all three options at the town’s annual parish meeting.

It will then take feedback from the community before making a decision at its meeting on July 14.

Council chairman Ian Hill said the options were to halt the process, proceed with a revised timetable or put the plan on hold to consider factors such as doubts over the number of new houses and the cost.

He said the advantage of having a plan was that it gave the community a say on infrastructure improvements rather than just what sites should be developed.

Watlington has been allocated 79 new homes to be built by 2027 under South Oxfordshire District Council’s core strategy but this number looks likely to increase.

Cllr Hill said the uncertainty would affect any plan.

He added: “The other disadvantage is the potential cost involved because of the extra documents and the need to find extra sites — there’s a lot more work involved.

“If we have to get professional advice, which seems quite likely, that would bump up the cost. We really don’t have a sensible estimate for what extra is needed.”

So far about £18,000 has been spent on the plan, most of which came from grants from South Oxfordshire District Council and Locality, a network of community-led organisations.

In May three councillors who had sat on the council’s neighbourhood plan core committee resigned due to uncertainty over the plan.

Rhian Woods, Neil Boddington and Nick Hancock then urged people not to vote for them in the parish council elections and were not re-elected.

The trio claimed the number of houses allocated to Watlington would almost certainly increase.

They added: “This level of uncertainty means that the basis for the Watlington neighbourhood plan seems unsound and further resource would be expended at considerable risk.

“The concept of neighbourhood planning is an excellent initiative, however it must now be given over to the new council to determine the way forward.”

At a special council meeting in June Watlington’s district councillor Anna Badcock and planning officer Peter Canavan urged the council to continue with the plan.

The parish meeting will be held at the Watlington Club on Thursday, July 9 at 7.30pm.

A presentation is being prepared by Cllr Hill and fellow councillors Tony Williamson, Matt Reid, Terry Jackson, Tom Bindoff and Jeremy Bell.

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