Monday, 24 June 2019
THE Watlington and Benson proposed bypasses are in danger of not going ahead, claims a district councillor.
Anna Badcock told Watlington’s annual parish meeting that South Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan, which earmarks sites for 28,000 new homes for the period until 2034, was set to be “pulled”.
She said this would mean the town’s neighbourhood plan, which was approved in a referendum last summer, and others across the district which feed into the Local Plan may no longer be valid.
It would also mean that the £215 million Oxfordshire Growth Deal would be lost.
The Local Plan was approved by the previous Conservative administration but the party was ousted in elections earlier this month and the Liberal Democrats now control the council in a coalition with the Greens.
The new leader, Liberal Democrat Sue Cooper, has said she wants to reduce the number of houses and “improve” the plan, which is now with an independent examiner. Councillor Badcock, a Conservative, told the meeting that all members of the council had been called to a meeting on June 3 to discuss the plan with a debate expected on June 20.
She said: “The information we’re getting at the moment is that it is to be pulled. If the plan is pulled then, yes, we’re back at square one.
“I’ve been told that, potentially, if the Local Plan goes, all the neighbourhood plans go as well. We have no neighbourhood plans.”
She said that potentially the council would have to go back to not having a five-year supply of housing land instead of one of three years, which would provide an “open season” for developers.
Councillor Badcock said the money for infrastructure and roads that the Government had agreed to pay under the Growth Deal would be lost if the Local Plan was scrapped.
Almost £2.5 million of this has been allocated for the initial work on the proposed bypasses for both Watlington and Benson. Cllr Badcock said: “So probably bordering on £300 to £400 million coming into Oxfordshire to provide the road infrastructure to ease the burden on rural conurbations will go.
“The implications are quite extraordinary. We certainly won’t have a road around Watlington, that’s almost a given — I hope it isn’t.
“In a month’s time we have no Local Plan, we have no neighbourhood plan, we have no road, we have no chance of a road.”
Gill Bindoff, a memebr of the parish council’s neighbourhood plan advisory board, interrupted her, saying: “Anna, I don’t think you should give a political speech here.”
Cllr Badcock replied: “It really isn’t a political speech. I feel it is my duty to tell you what will happen because it will move quickly. I am looking to you as the residents of this area to give me your viewpoints.”
She said that if there were small adjustments to the plan the delay would be shorter but if the document was rewritten completely it could be three years. Mrs Bindoff said there was no threat to the neighbourhood plan because the district council had a core strategy and its existing local plan which it used to make decisions on planning applications.
But Councillor Badcock replied that planning officers were not confident that the existing plans would apply if an application went to appeal.
She said: “Maybe the ruling party come back and say, ‘we feel it’s risky to can this Local Plan so we have to make a few minor amendments’ or they may say ‘this doesn’t fit in with our ideology at all and we’re going to take that risk’.”
Parish councillor Tim Horton said the problem was Oxfordshire accepting 100,000 new homes by 2031 under the Growth Deal.
Homes England wants to build 3,000 homes at Chalgrove Airfield and the site has been included in the current local plan.
Former parish councillor Robert Barber said building there would “utterly destroy” Watlington and the surrounding villages.
Cllr Badcock said the alternative was building on the green belt around Oxford.
03 June 2019
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