Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Village says it can’t meet allocation of new homes

WOODCOTE cannot accommodate the number of new homes it has been allocated, according to the parish council.

The South Oxfordshire District Council local plan published last December increased the village’s allocation of 76 to 225.

The document, which applies until the year 2035, proposed a 15 per cent increase in the total number of homes in each of the district’s “larger” villages, which include Woodcote as well as Goring, Sonning Common, Watlington and Nettlebed.

However, the parish council has allocated sites for only 53 more homes in its updated neighbourhood plan, making a total of 129.

It argues that development in Woodcote is constrained by the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty so it cannot take as many homes as other large villages.

Its neighbourhood plan, which has been submitted to the district council, identifies three new sites that could be developed without harming the AONB. These are:

• Two pieces of land behind Yew Tree Farmhouse, off Wayside Green (nine)

• Beechwood Court, Long Toll (14)

• Church Farm, behind the village hall (30).

These are in addition to the previously allocated sites of Chiltern Rise Cottage and surrounding land off Reading Road (24 houses), land at Woodcote Garden Centre in Reading Road (nine), where development has started, the former Chiltern Queens bus depot site in Long Toll (14), where houses have already been completed, the former reservoir site at Greenmore (20) and land at the end of Wood Lane (nine).

The revised plan has a new policy of identifying local green spaces in order to help allocate new development sites while protecting the AONB.

It also identifies the settlement boundary, which will help to protect the village against development outside the built-up area.

The document also reflects growing concern about the climate emergency, saying that all new developments should be required to produce a net biodiversity gain.

It says the new homes should have solar panels and be aligned to maximise energy generation and have effective insulation and sustainable drainage systems.

They should also have electric vehicle charging points and secure bicycle storage to encourage residents to reduce their use of petrol and diesel cars. The plan also wants the affordable housing that is built to be offered first to those with a strong connection to the village, meaning they have lived in the parish for five of the last eight years, or they have an essential need to live close to someone who has lived in the parish for five years or they need to live in the parish for work.

Geoff Botting, a parish councillor and chairman of the neighbourhood plan advisory group, said: “We are not proposing the number of houses the district council proposed.

“The figure the district council came up with was a 15 per cent increase for the larger villages but in Woodcote we are constrained by the AONB.

“National planning policy and the district council’s own policies say you cannot develop in the AONB except in very limited circumstances. The houses have been allocated as if Woodcote is any other village, but most others are not in the AONB.

“We tried to find space for 115 houses but we couldn’t because of that constraint.

“They’ve got these two policies, the one protecting the AONB and the one requiring new houses but we can’t meet the one without failing to meet the other.

“We’ve done an awful lot of work to be able to deliver about half of the houses allocated without contravening policies. There’s also measures to protect views in the AONB — that’s what it’s there for, to protect the landscape of the countryside. We need to maintain that for residents and visitors.

“We’ve also introduced climate change measures. We want all new houses to have an electric vehicle charging point and bigger houses to have more than one.

“We have problems with public transport in Woodcote and a very high level of car ownership.

“When new houses are built they need to be made attractive to people to change to an electric car. If there’s no charging point in their home they won’t make the change.

“It costs peanuts to put them in when the house is built and it’s more difficult to put them in later on.”

The district council will carry out a six-week public consultation on the plan, when residents can comment on the proposals, beginning this month.

The document will then go to an independent examiner, who will decide if it follows the district council’s policies and is appropriate to go forward to a referendum.

The original plan was adopted in 2014 with the support of more than 90 per cent of the 60 per cent of people who voted in a referendum.

To take part in the consultation, visit  www.southoxon.gov.uk/
consultations

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