Monday, 16 December 2019

Village must accept more new homes to lure young

WOODCOTE could agree to take an extra 58 new homes under a revised version of its neighbourhood plan.

The steering group which wrote the document says the village’s housing quota must increase to maintain its “vitality” as the population is decreasing while getting older on average.

It says there is a growing need to accommodate young families and meeting this will ensure there is healthy demand for amenities like the primary school.

The group of volunteers proposes spreading the new homes across four relatively small sites around the village over the next 15 years.

These would be on top of the 76 homes on five sites earmarked in the original plan, which runs until the year 2027.

The proposed sites, which were all put forward for development by the landowners, are:

• A 1.16-hectare field at Church Farm, opposite the village hall in Reading Road, which could take up to 30 dwellings plus a new village car park with up to 45 spaces. Twelve homes would be classed as “affordable” while the car park at the eastern edge could tackle the long-standing problem with parking and congestion on the main road. The hedge screening the site from the street would remain and more trees could be planted around the perimeter.

• One acre of land at Beechwood Court off Long Toll, where an underused office block could be demolished to build 14 one- or two-bedroom flats. Eight of these would be sold or rented on the open market and six would be classed as “affordable”.

• Two adjacent fields behind Yew Tree Farmhouse, off Behoes Lane, totalling 0.92 hectares, which between them could take 14 units, three of them affordable. Access from the lane would be widened.

The steering group says there was strong support for the sites from the 120 questionnaires that were returned following a public consultation event at the village hall last week.

Even the least popular was backed by more than 60 per cent of respondents while others were backed by more than 90 per cent.

Parish councillor Geoff Botting, secretary of the steering group, said the sites were chosen because of their size as national planning policy opposes large-scale developments in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Thirteen larger fields around the village outskirts were excluded on this basis and four others, three off Greenmore and one off Goring Road, weren’t selected as they failed to meet other criteria.

Councillor Botting said: “The support for the recommended sites was overwhelming, although there will always be a number of people against.

“This is especially encouraging given that people who respond to these consultations are often the ones with the most concerns.

“Our choices were made against a list of 40 criteria to ensure they comply with national planning policy and landscape considerations in an AONB.

“We look at all sorts of things from walking distances to whether or not a site is brownfield, which is a significant advantage.

“It takes time but it’s just an extension of the principles we applied in the original plan. We start by working out the objective need and working out the most appropriate way to meet it.”

In 2017, the steering group conducted a survey which found between 50 to 60 families with a local connection wished to stay in the village. At the time, the population was 2,600, down 100 on the figure in 2014. The group wants to raise the number to not more than 3,000 by 2025.

The steering group also wants to create three new employment sites. These are:

• 0.41 hectares immediately north of the proposed Church Farm development. This would be limited to businesses that don’t attract large volumes of traffic or HGVs.

• 0.33 hectares at Bishop’s Yard, off Greenmore, which is brownfield land.

• 0.2-hectares near Wards Farm, off Greenmore, which could take five small industrial units and a
30-bay car park.

The proposals will be examined by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, before the revised neighbourhood plan goes to a referendum.

If more than half of voters are in favour, the district council will be legally obliged to consider them when deciding applications.

The neighbourhood plan is being revised because the district council is updating its own local plan, which outlines development strategies for every town and “larger village” to meet government targets.

This has been delayed by a change of administration following the elections in May.

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