Thursday, 23 September 2021

Campaign to protect Chilterns from homes

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to change the rules governing the number of houses that councils have to accommodate.

The Chiltern Society says 80 per cent of local authorities in the Chilterns are making plans to build houses on green belt land because they say there is nowhere else for them go.

It says this will lead to “irreversible damage” of the countryside in Oxfordshire, and neighbouring counties and is seeking meetings with the area’s MPs, including Henley MP John Howell and Maidenhead MP and Prime Minister Theresa May.

Society chairman David Harris said the problem was caused by councils being expected to meet the Objectively Assessed Need, a planning concept.

He said: “This basically requires councils to calculate future housing needs by looking at past trends. In effect it leaves no leeway to consider the capacity of the area to accommodate the numbers.

“The Government’s latest housing White Paper fails to recognise that in some circumstances OAN cannot be met without irreversible damage to the character of an area or undermining the fundamental purposes of the green belt.”

The society’s campaign has four demands:

l Housing targets to be determined more flexibly and intelligently.

l Green belt, AONB and the overall character of an area to become legitimate reasons for reducing housing targets.

l Real housing need in an area to be considered instead of calculating numbers via a one-fits-all formula.

l Councils to be given the ability to deliver a range of homes in terms of tenure, type and size that meets genuine local need.

Mr Harris said: “Of course there is a need for new housing — indeed, in this area there are particular issues for young people wishing to stay in the area they grew up in.

“But what is needed for such people is genuinely affordable or low-cost homes and in this respect the current system lets them down.

“By and large, local councils cannot exert meaningful influence to ensure that the right type and number of housing for this local need is delivered.”

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