Sunday, 19 January 2020

Residents protest at changes to plan

RESIDENTS have complained after learning that South Oxfordshire District Council amended the Goring neighbourhood plan at the request of two developers.

They claim the single-word alteration, which was made after the plan was independently examined but before it went to a referendum in July, means a planning application by the developers could now be approved even though the villagers fear it poses a flood risk.

They have written to the Local Government Ombudsman after first complaining to the council, which said there was no case to answer.

The neighbourhood plan, which most residents supported, names four sites where 86 new homes should be built by 2027 to meet national housing targets.

These include a 2.24-hectare field off Manor Road, where Elegant Homes and Frenbury Developments want outline planning permission for 20 homes on a plot that lies partly in a moderate flood risk zone. This is not yet decided but scores of neighbours have objected.

The applicants say they will raise the land to reduce the flood risk but the residents who live in the area believe this will be offset by the new foundations and tarmac, which will increase water run-off.

An earlier draft of the neighbourhood plan only permitted development on land explicitly classed by the Environment Agency as having a low flood risk.

However, after talks with the developers’ solicitors in April, the district council slightly reworded the document to allow building on higher-risk land if it were raised to that same level.

The complainants, who discovered this following a request under the Freedom of Information Act, say the original wording offered grounds to reject the Manor Road scheme whereas now it might be allowed and could exacerbate an existing flooding problem.

They say the council failed to publicise the amendment but the authority says it sought legal advice and the change was in line with national policy. It also informed the examiner who had scrutinised the plan and he raised no objections.

Goring Parish Council has not objected to the scheme, which is to be decided later this month, and is awaiting full details to be confirmed through a separate application. The Environment Agency hasn’t commented.

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