Friday, 27 November 2020

Housing plan for Woodcote site fails on appeal

PLANS to build 10 homes on a field on the outskirts of Woodcote have been thrown out on appeal.

PLANS to build 10 homes on a field on the outskirts of Woodcote have been thrown out on appeal.

A planning inspector has backed South Oxfordshire District Council’s decision to refuse consent for the scheme at Goats Gambol.

The 0.89-hectare site off Beech Lane is not among the five earmarked for housing in Woodcote’s neighbourhood plan, which states where 76 properties should by built by 2027.

The document was approved in a village referendum so is a legally binding element of South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning policy.

Developers Jumquest and Beenlore, who were seeking outline planning permission, said the authority’s housing targets were too low to meet future demand so more development should be allowed.

But following an inquiry at the village hall in April, inspector John Felgate concluded the site was unsuitable.

He said the scheme did not count as “infill” development because the site was not part of an existing street frontage nor surrounded by other buildings.

He said it could affect “public views of some significance” within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and would be  “harmful”.

The developers argued that similar sites had been deemed suitable for housing in the neighbourhood plan but Mr Felgate said this was not  relevant.

He said: “The proposed development would result in the outward expansion of the village’s built-up area and conflicts with policies which exist to control unnecessary development in the countryside.

“I have sympathy with the applicants’ view that the appeal site is no less well located than many in the neighbourhood plan but the decisions on those sites have been made.

“I must consider the appeal on its own merits.”

Objectors had claimed the development would cause a traffic hazard on Beech Lane but Mr Felgate disagreed and said this was not a reason for rejection.

However, he dismissed the appellants’ argument that the district’s housing target was too low, saying a five-year land supply had been “adequately demonstrated”.

He said: “The proposed development would provide 10 new dwellings, including four affordable units, in a location reasonably served by local facilities.

“This would be of some benefit but it would be relatively limited since an adequate supply of housing land has been shown to exist.

“It is clear to me that the harm would significantly and demonstrably outweigh any benefit.”

Woodcote parish councillor Geoff Botting, who was chairman of the neighbourhood plan’s volunteer steering group, welcomed the decision.

He said: “The parish council and steering group are very pleased that the integrity of the plan has been upheld and that its policies carried weight.

“We were one of the first places to publish a plan so this is a significant test case.

“Neighbourhood planning could have been torpedoed as a policy if this appeal was upheld because people would have lost confidence in it.”

Before the inquiry Henley MP John Howell, who introduced neighbourhood planning through the 2011 Localism Act, wrote to Sir Eric Pickles, then minister for communities, alerting him to the situation.

This week Mr Howell said: “If we are asking communities to undertake these plans, it is crucial that the credibility of the system is not cast into doubt.

“Woodcote went to great lengths to establish an objective system for deciding housing sites so I’m absolutely delighted that the plan has been upheld.”

Amanda Stewart, who owns the land, said she and the developers would consider their next move later this year.

She said: “There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for the decision.

“People are desperate for housing across the district so I’m very surprised as we were offering four social units, which we didn’t have to do.

“The vitriol towards this scheme in the village has been palpable. Someone circulated a leaflet urging everyone to object but there were only about 20 people at the inquiry.

“The district council seems to be throwing a lot of money at stopping houses being built, which seems a waste.

“We’re down a long driveway and the plan wouldn’t have affected anyone.”

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

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