Tuesday, 01 December 2020

Search for housing sites put on hold

THE search for additional housing sites in Woodcote has been put on hold.

A advisory group of volunteers that is updating the village’s neighbourhood plan says there is no point in continuing until it knows how many more homes the village will be expected to take.

New housing quotas across South Oxfordshire, including Woodcote’s, have been thrown into chaos after the district council rejected its own new local plan amid uncertainty over the availability of Chalgrove airfield, which had been earmarked for 3,000 homes.

This plan, which was to run until 2033, allocated Woodcote another 160 properties on top of the 76 on seven sites that were agreed under the neighbourhood plan, which passed a referendum in 2014.

However, the advisory group only allocated land for another 67, saying this was a more realistic target.

Geoff Botting, who chairs the group, said: “Neighbourhood plans must show that they comply with the district council’s local plan and that is now a total shambles.

“It’s not a very impressive exercise on their part as we’d actually warned it wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny, as had the people of Chalgrove and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

“John Cotton, the district council leader, was a big advocate of letting neighbourhood plans lead the process but now his position has been compromised and there’s a lot of uncertainty over what the future holds.

“There had always been a conflict between national planning policy, which says areas of outstanding natural beauty like the Chilterns should be protected, and the draft local plan’s proposed increase for Woodcote.

“The district council had proposed a 15 per cent uplift for the villages but 160 homes would be nearer 18 per cent. It felt like it was plucked from thin air and made little sense given the constraints we face.

“We certainly haven’t cancelled our plan and the work we’ve carried out to date will still be of use in future.

“However, we don’t know what the district council’s expectations will ultimately be and those will make a big impact on our site recommendations. For all we know the final figure could be much lower.”

The new sites recommended by the group are a field behind the Black Lion in Greenmore plus two other on the same street but further north, the field opposite the village hall in Reading Road, a smaller field off Behoes Lane and the former Woody Nook restaurant in Goring Road. All six were supported by the majority of respondents at a consultation last month.

Meanwhile, plans for 45 homes on a field in Woodcote that wasn’t allocated for development in the neighbourhood plan have been rejected.

The district council refused the application by T A Fisher, of Reading, on the grounds that it would harm the AONB and there were no “exceptional circumstances” to justify it.

It also said the developer had failed to offer money towards “affordable” housing and community infrastructure. A similar proposal for 65 houses on the site was rejected last year.

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