Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Boost for developers as policy on homes relaxed

NEW housing developments in the Henley area are more likely to get planning permission following a

NEW housing developments in the Henley area are more likely to get planning permission following a relaxation of South Oxfordshire District Council’s policy.

Until now the authority has judged planning applications according to its core strategy, which outlines how many new houses should be built and where.

The strategy, which was adopted in 2012 following public consultation, says South Oxfordshire should take 11,487 houses between 2006 and 2027, or 547 a year, in order to meet government targets.

Henley’s allocation is at least 400 homes while 13 larger villages including Benson, Goring, Nettlebed, Sonning Common, Watlington and Woodcote must take a total of 1,154.

Now the council has announced that it will give the strategy “significantly less weight” in future after losing two planning appeals over proposed developments in Wallingford and Chinnor.

The council refused permission because the sites weren’t earmarked for development but both applicants successfully argued that its housebuilding targets were too low and it hadn’t secured enough immediately available land to meet demand over the next five years.

The planning inspectors who heard the appeals said the council should set a higher quota as outlined in the strategic housing market assessment, an independent report which it commissioned in 2014 on the orders of the Government.

This says the council should plan for 14,500 to 16,500 homes between 2011 and 2031, or up to 825 a year.

The authority disputes these figures but is now consulting on a new Local Plan to cover that period. Until then, it says “sustainable” development will be permitted as long as the harm it causes doesn’t outweigh the benefit of providing new homes.

It says it will strongly resist any applications which go against the principle of building in existing larger settlements or don’t comply with completed or well-advanced neighbourhood plans.

So far the neighbourhood plans for Henley and Harpsden and Woodcote have passed referendums while Watlington, Benson, Whitchurch, Goring and Sonning Common are writing their own.

Henley and Harpsden’s joint plan, which was approved in March, outlines 11 sites where about 500 homes should go while Woodcote’s makes provision for 76.

Earlier this year, a planning expert hired by the Campaign to Protect Rural England said the SHMA’s recommendations were excessive.

Professor Alan Wenburn-Smith said fewer than half of the additional homes were required as the forecast was based on a “dash for jobs and growth at all costs” rather than current need.

Meanwhile, the group set up to monitor implementation of the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan has met for the first time.

The group comprises representatives from Henley Town Council and Harpsden Parish Council and lay members and is chaired by former town councillor Dieter Hinke.

It agreed to record any changes to the sites recommended for development in a document available on the town council’s website.

Patrick Fleming suggested that planning applications should be looked at by the steering group before the council’s planning committee.

But Mayor Julian Brookes said they should be considered by the committee as normal and that any problematic ones should be “called in”, meaning that the district council would have to consider them at a public meeting.

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