Sunday, 16 December 2018

Village's draft neighbourhood plan is legally unsound, say residents

GORING’S draft neighbourhood plan is legally unsound, according to a residents’ group.

The document, which is being written by volunteers under supervision by the parish council, will name the sites where 86 homes should go to meet government targets by 2027.

If it passes a referendum, it will become legally binding.

Four sites have been provisionally identified as suitable for development, including the eastern half of a 2.76-hectare field between Manor Road and Elmcroft, which it’s said could accommodate up to 25 homes.

But about 30 neighbours say the land is unsuitable as it is prone to flooding and a previous bid for 35 homes was rejected on appeal as it would harm views of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They argue that the 25 houses should be shared across several fields off Gatehampton Road or that South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, should reduce Goring’s quota.

The group’s solicitors say the volunteers’ approach “contains significant legal and planning policy flaws”.

Harrison Clark Rickerbys, of Reading, claim that sites with a moderate or high flood risk, which includes parts of the Manor Road field, should have been ruled out before other possible sites were considered.

The solicitors say development affecting an AONB is allowed under “exceptional circumstances” and the quota of 86 houses could be lowered if valid constraints were identified.

In fact, the steering group writing the plan eliminated any sites that could harm the AONB and identified the Manor Road site as suitable because it had a lower flood risk, which is legal where other sites are “not reasonably available”.

The solicitors claim this is a misinterpretation of planning policy as the impact on the AONB isn’t a valid ground to rule out a site.

They say: “There is a number of errors in the way the group has approached the allocation. These need to be addressed to enable the plan to meet the legal requirements of… national planning policy.”

Mike Stares, the steering group’s co-chairman, said: “We are awaiting advice from the district council and the guidance we receive will be properly taken into account.”

A district council spokesman said: “As part of our duty to guide and assist neighbourhood planning groups, we are helping the Goring group to ensure it develops a proportionate and robust evidence base which justifies the approach it has taken, including the site selection process.”

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