Plan to meet housing needs will return to Inspector

Plans for how north Oxfordshire can help accommodate Oxford’s unmet housing need will return to the Government planning Inspector for examination.

Published: Tuesday, 25th February 2020

On Monday 24 February, a meeting of Cherwell District Council approved ‘main modifications’ to the Partial Review of the Local Plan. The Plan, which has been considered by the Inspector at public hearings, provides for homes on sites in the Kidlington, Gosford, Yarnton and Bebroke area. 

The modifications arise from an advice letter from the Inspector which asked the council to redistribute 410 homes from a single site originally proposed to the south east of Woodstock. Yesterday’s decision approves this change to the document. The preliminary advice, sent in July, also indicated that the Inspector is satisfied in principle with the plan’s housing figures (4,400 homes in total), its strategy, and its other six housing sites.

Cllr Colin Clarke, Cherwell’s lead member for planning, said: “When the council first adopted its Local Plan in 2015, it committed to a partial review to help Oxford provide the homes that the city cannot accommodate. West Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse Councils are also playing their part.”

“The Plan will provide 50 per cent affordable homes, new schools, a range of public and sustainable transport networks, and numerous measures to enrich biodiversity. Yesterday’s decision reflects the fact that we have redistributed the 410 homes from Woodstock to others already identified in the Plan. 

“Exceptional circumstances have been demonstrated to require some additional Green Belt release to accommodate 230 of the 410 homes and to address the Inspector’s comments. However, it has been shown to be possible to provide the other 180 homes on developable areas already considered by the Inspector.

“The wider southern Cherwell area should benefit from the investment that these new homes bring. Yesterday’s decision marks a further step forward and we now await the Inspector’s full report.”

The Plan provides homes where people can most readily connect to Oxford and access its employment areas, universities, services and facilities. It commits to 50 per cent affordable homes, proposing 80 per cent of this as affordable/social rent and 20 per cent as other forms of intermediate housing. 

Transport infrastructure commitments focus on improving public and sustainable transport, and integration with new communities. The schemes include improvements to bus lanes on the Oxford, Banbury and Woodstock roads. Enhanced pedestrian and cycle infrastructure would link Kidlington, Begbroke and Yarnton to Oxford Parkway and the city itself.

Green infrastructure proposals in the Plan include: the extension of Cutteslowe Park, the creation of wildlife habitats, the enhancement of woodland areas, and a green infrastructure network to connect and improve existing wildlife corridors.

Cherwell’s Local Plan was adopted in 2015 and it contains a commitment to help Oxford fulfil its unmet housing need. This commitment triggered the Partial Review of the Local Plan. The Plan was first approved in June 2017 for public consultation. 

The Plan was the subject of public hearings in September 2018 and February 2019. A public consultation on the modifications was held in November and December 2019.

The Inspector will now continue his examination and once he has provided his report, the council will have the opportunity to consider his final recommendations.