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Vale housing row hits crunch point
OPPONENTS have called for planning bosses to end confusion over a “failed” policy they say has left the Vale at the mercy of developers.
Liberal Democrats have called a showdown meeting with Tory-run Vale of White Horse District Council tomorrow.
The authority moved to relax rules last year to allow more building in villages to catch up on a housing shortage of about 1,000 homes.
But the bid was abandoned soon after developers identified schemes for 5,078 homes on 146 sites.
Opponents now fear developers could have strong grounds to appeal to Government if any application is rejected by the council as there is no plan in place for where the homes should go.
Richard Webber, leader of the Lib Dem opposition, last night said: “We have a planning free-for-all where anyone can put in an application where they like.
“It’s bad for the Vale’s reputation and it puts us in a limbo. There is an enormous amount of confusion. Even amongst politicians.
“This meeting is an opportunity for everyone to get their heads around the problem and look at the options for dealing with it.”
The council’s interim housing supply policy (IHSP) was ditched because of legal changes introduced under the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework.
The public and all parish councils in the district are invited to the special meeting which take place from 7pm at The Guildhall in Abingdon.
Mr Webber added: “The Tories produced a policy they thought would stop too many speculative planning applications coming in.
“What they did was give a semi-green light to developers and landowners to put in applications that would not have otherwise have come forward.”
Consultation saw major developments suggested for villages such as Kingston Bagpuize, Marcham, Sutton Courtenay and Drayton.
Helen Marshall, director of CPRE Oxfordshire, said: “The Vale’s now-abandoned interim housing supply policy generated huge interest from developers and encouraged potential applications in all sorts of inappropriate places.”
But Matthew Barber, leader of the council, said the housing deficit was inherited from the Lib Dems when his party took over in May 2011.
He said a formal meeting would not allow for questions to be answered as people would expect.
“If they (the Lib Dems) have some fantastic genie-in-a-bottle answer to the planning problem I would wonder why they didn’t implement it when they were in power,” he said.
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