Sunday, 03 July 2022

‘Parasitic’ home scheme not needed, inquiry hears

PLANS to build 245 homes on farmland to the north of Emmer Green should be refused as there are enough housing sites elsewhere in South Oxfordshire, the district council has claimed.

Speaking on the final day of an inquiry into the council’s rejection of the scheme by Gladman Homes, its solicitor Robin Green hit back at the developer’s claim that the council hadn’t secured enough land to meet the next five years’ demand for new housing.

Gladman, which wants to develop three fields totalling 13.5 hectares between Peppard Road and Kiln Road, argued the shortfall rendered the council’s local plan invalid so sites that didn’t comply with its policies should be considered eligible.

The council says it has a 7.6-year land supply to meet its target of 627 new houses a year by 2027 but Gladman claimed the target should actually be 1,700 and therefore the true supply was much lower.

Mr Green told the final day of the inquiry, which took place at Henley Rugby Club last week, that Gladman’s figure was based on a document with no basis in planning law.

This was the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, which all six of the county’s local authorities were preparing in return for £215 million of Government investment in infrastructure and affordable housing.

A report said the county must take 100,000 homes by 2031 and that South Oxfordshire could take an extra 4,950 to help make up for Oxford being 15,000 units behind its quota.

Mr Green told inspector Nick Palmer that the council had signed no agreement to this effect and the deal should be seen as provisional.

He said: “It is not, in itself, intended to influence planning decisions. It doesn’t apportion housing numbers to individual local authorities because this is something for each to decide through its local plan and ultimately a joint strategy.

“It is merely a timetable for the production of local plans, the contents of which are for local authorities to decide.

“There’s no justification for using it to support this application… [and] no reasonable reader would understand it as imposing an obligation on the council to meet a portion of Oxford’s unmet need.

“The strategic housing market assessment conducted in 2014 recognises a shortfall across Oxfordshire but does not say how much should be provided as a consequence and, as per Government guidance, does not apply constraints.

“However, those issues are very relevant in deciding how much development can be accommodated and where it should be located.

“It would be perverse if the deal were used to justify an increase in housing numbers. The council’s current figure is properly derived using standard measurement and clearly demonstrates an adequate supply.”

John Fitzsimons, for the Campaign Against Gladman in Eye and Dunsden, said Gladman’s scheme would be a “parasitic” development on Reading borough.

“The houses are not needed to meet a lack of supply there and with an adequate five-year supply in South Oxfordshire they’re certainly not needed here,” he said.

John Barrett, for Gladman, said the increase outlined in the deal was bound to be needed eventually and West Oxfordshire and Cherwell district councils had condemned South Oxfordshire for failing to agree to it.

He said West Oxfordshire’s local plan, which had just been approved, was based on the 2014 housing market assessment, which said South Oxfordshire’s target should go up to between 725 and 825 homes a year. This showed that it was a valid basis for deciding planning policies. Mr Barrett said: “It is quite frankly inconceivable that the district council can hope to maintain the benefits associated with the Oxfordshire growth deal without carrying some of the responsibility that comes with it.”

The district council refused Gladman’s plans a year ago and the developer appealed.

The first part of the inquiry took place in May and focused on sustainability and the impact on traffic, infrastructure and the landscape in Eye and Dunsden parish.

Opponents argued the application would put undue pressure on Reading’s roads, schools and surgeries and would be too far from the nearest shops and services for people to walk.

They said it would spoil views of the neighbouring Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and erode the green barrier between Reading and Sonning Common.

Gladman pointed out that the council’s own officers raised no such concerns and had recommended approval.

The land supply arguments were deferred as the district council announced it had achieved the five-year minimum on the day before proceedings opened and Gladman wanted time to analyse its figures.

Mr Palmer will announce his decision later.

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