Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Housing blueprint may fail to deliver if airfield scheme fails

A DOCUMENT earmarking sites for development across South Oxfordshire may fail to deliver because of a dispute over the Chalgrove Airfield site.

Homes England, a government agency, wants to redevelop the land, which it owns.

However, tenant business Martin-Baker, an ejector seat manufacturer, says it does not want to make way but continue with its lease, which runs until 2063.

Homes England says it may have to resort to statutory powers, including compulsory purchase orders.

The site has been included in the draft of South Oxfordshire District Council’s new local plan, which allocates sites for development until 2033.

Despite the wrangle, members of the council’s cabinet agreed on Tuesday not to change the document, or to seek new sites for housing in the event that the airfield plans fail.

A report to the cabinet said: “Full council could decide to maintain the local plan proposals and timescales for submission as is and rely on the commitment from Homes England to deliver the site.

“This option would enable the council to proceed to the formal submission of the local plan by June.

“It should be noted that if Homes England decides to use its compulsory purchase powers to deliver Chalgrove Airfield the compulsory purchase order process may add delay to the delivery of the site.

“The council would need to adjust its housing trajectory accordingly, which, depending on the extent of such timing, could present a housing shortfall in the plan period.

“Chalgrove Airfield can remain a developable site in the plan but its trajectory for housing delivery may need to be altered.

“However, it also introduces a significant element of risk insofar as the plan inspector may find relying on a compulsory purchase order process to secure the land for development for a strategic allocation unsatisfactory and potentially not meeting the requirement for available and deliverable sites for development and therefore not effective, rendering the plan ‘unsound’.

“It is considered that the ‘no change’ approach places the plan at risk in respect of its deliverability.”

The saga is being watched closely by Watlington and Benson, which have included the provision of bypasses in their neighbourhood plans to offset the impact of extra traffic from the hundreds of new houses set to be built in their areas and the proposed airfield development.

These relief roads could rely on part-funding from Homes England if the Chalgrove scheme goes ahead.

It is estimated that the Watligton bypass would cost £13million with £4.3million expected to come from the agency, while Benson’s road would cost £9million with £2.3million coming from Homes England.

Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, has said the delivery of bypasses in Watlington and Benson is “extremely complex”, involving a number of different developers and landowners, and it will not be held liable for delivering the roads or the funding.

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