A BLUEPRINT for where new homes will be built in West Oxfordshire has been delayed after the district council received more feedback than it expected.
More than 3,000 comments were made from about 500 individuals and organisations to West Oxfordshire District Council during public consultation on its draft Local Plan, which proposes 9,450 homes to be built at allocated sites around the district.
Responses were due to be considered by the cabinet at last Wednesday’s meeting, ahead of producing a final plan, but this has been delayed by at least a couple of months.
The setback comes after the council achieved its requirement to have enough land allocated for housing for the next five years, after approving 700 homes to the east of Carterton. It says reaching this five-year supply will give it greater protection against unwanted housing proposals.
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The council believes it can use its 2006 Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework to oppose speculative applications.
But developers behind schemes like the 270-home Windrush Valley estate in Witney could counter this by saying it has no up-to-date Local Plan strategy.
Cabinet member for strategic housing Warwick Robinson said: “We have had to delay the Local Plan, partly due to the volume of comments and the technical content that required further evaluation and research.
“We hadn’t expected 3,000 comments and have never had that many in the past.
“Clearly this particular plan is a substantial change in the total number of homes, from 5,500 to 9,450.
“Having a five-year land supply should give us a better chance to defend a refusal of a speculative development but developers can argue we don’t have a Local Plan in place.
“It would be beneficial if we had one as the fact we don’t is a further weakness, but we’re not prepared to submit it to the inspectorate until we’re very confident that it will not be refused outright.”
The council had identified 3,228 homes to be built between 2015 and 2020, and it also requires a five per cent buffer in case any development is not completed in time.
Before developer Bloor Homes’ Carterton East plan, off Monahan Way, was passed on October 9, the council only had 3,144 prospective homes.
But it expects at least 300 of these homes to be built in the next five years, pushing its supply over the required total.
Mr Robinson said the council previously needed a higher standard of proof that plans were ‘unacceptable’ as it could face a planning inspector at an appeal.
Securing enough land for new homes should give the local authority more protection once its new planning policy is formed, based on the new Local Plan.
Mr Robinson said he hopes the plan will be ready for cabinet by the end of the year and submitted to an inspector by late spring.
Earlier this month Cotswold District Council, which shares some services with West Oxfordshire, was told by a planning inspector that it could not rely on a five-year land supply to resist unwanted development.
But Mr Robinson said he did not expect any major consequences for his own council, as the numbers were always open to being challenged.
Gladman Homes’ plans for the Windrush Valley development, off Burford Road, have been fiercely opposed by residents concerned about flood risk and an increase in traffic.
Windrush Valley Protection Group chairwoman Jennie Allen said: “Hopefully this means that unneeded, unsustainable and speculative profit-driven development proposals, such as the Windrush Valley, will be denied.”
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