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Developers eye up village sites
DEVELOPERS are clamouring to build thousands of homes in villages across the Vale, it was revealed last night.
The full picture of where builders are eyeing up land emerged yesterday as planners move to relax rules on development to plug its housing shortfall.
Builders have put forward 4,338 new homes on 111 locations across the district.
It comes after Vale of White Horse District Council invited landowners to suggest potential housing sites.
The council needs to find space for about 800 homes after large development schemes, such as the 2,500 homes earmarked for Grove Airfield, were delayed.
It is hoping to relax rules under its interim housing supply policy until 1,000 homes are built or until it adopts a long-term housing strategy for the next 15 years – not expected to be until 2013.
In Marcham, five sites were put forward for 229 homes. Parish councillor Malcolm Denton said: “The infrastructure couldn’t cope with that number of houses.”
Helen Marshall, of Oxfordshire’s branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “It’s going to be worrying for a lot of villages. It’s not surprising if developers think they can get their hands on nice greenfield land and build high-value properties.
“Whether that’s going to address affordable housing needs or give the communities the development they need is quite a different issue.”
Current guidelines limit development to up to 15 homes in large villages, up to four homes in small villages and one or two homes in hamlets. Under relaxed rules, limits are larger but vary for each village.
The policy to relax the rules will go before the council’s cabinet on Friday and the final decision could be made by the full council on May 16.
If given the go-ahead, developers will then be allowed to submit planning applications but the policy rules sites must be “proportionate, suitable, sustainable and deliverable”.
Cabinet member for planning Roger Cox said: “Protection of towns and villages in the district are key priorities for us and this is central to the conditions set out in the policy. This means protecting both their character and ensuring their future vitality.
“Provision of homes is a necessity and the interim policy is the best way to achieve this while we finalise our major housing plans.”
Council spokesman Andy Roberts said: “Having a choice means the council is able select the most suitable options based on proportionality and other guidelines within the policy.”
Chairman of Letcombe Regis Parish Council John Griffiths said developers were trying their luck: “It’s like fishing – you chuck a lot of bait in to catch one fish.”
Included in the suggested sites are 740 homes on Green Belt land or land classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. (AONB). Liberal Democrat Greendown councillor Andrew Crawford said no development should be allowed on these types of sites.
For more details, visit whitehorsedc.gov.uk/SPDS