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Archive - Saturday, 7 February 2004
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MP bids to break plans deadlock
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Dr Evan Harris has stepped in to try to break the deadlock of a seven-year dispute over the future of a famous house at Boars Hill near Oxford.
Yatscombe Hall in Boars Hill after the fire
Yatscombe Hall, a three-storey house once occupied by world renowned Greek scholar Sir Gilbert Murray, was badly damaged by fire in December.
For years it has been at the centre of a wrangle involving the local district council, the Government, developers and villagers.
Although the Vale of White Horse District Council has previously agreed to redevelopment plans, they have been turned down by Housing and Planning Minister Lord Rooker. He says the proposals would harm the Oxford Green Belt.
Now Dr Harris is dem- anding a decision on plans to rebuild Yatscombe Hall and allow redevelopment of the rest of the site.
Dr Harris said: "It is high time that Lord Rooker sorted this matter out once and for all. This seven-year saga has gone on far too long. Throughout much of this period the site has been occupied by squatters and others with caravans."
Since the first planning application was submitted in April 1997 to develop the site for residential use there have been three rounds of public submissions, two inspectors' reports and two public inquiries. The issue is still unresolved. Site owner Dramay Holdings wants to demolish all existing buildings except Yatscombe Hall itself, and to build 14 flats, two cottages and a gatehouse with driveways and parking.
In November 2001, Lord Rooker refused permission for the application in spite of an inquiry inspector saying it should go ahead. Dramay Holdings was successful in challenging the decision in April, 2002.
But Lord Rooker called for further submissions and in March last year again refused permission.
Dramay Holdings mounted a legal challenge in September and won.
Dr Harris said: "The length of time the whole process has taken is outrageous.
"It's time the Government drew a line under this drawn-out saga."
The developers want to restore Yatscombe Hall to its original form when occupied by Sir Gilbert Murray from 1910-36. The hall was visited by Gandhi, Einstein and Lawrence of Arabia.