Lead members for planning votes against own local plan, gets sacked, threat f ni confidence in Council leader – who then resigns. Back to Cabinet for alternative option,
A CRITICAL part of a council’s housing plan faces being axed – again – because of concerns over its viability.
South Oxfordshire District Council has earmarked Chalgrove Airfield as somewhere it wants to build 3,000 homes, despite strong public opposition.
Its cabinet decided last week that it was content to keep the site in its local plan.
But on Tuesday the council rejected the current local plan and told the cabinet to go back and choose one of two options.
Either the cabinet can suggest the council looks to find an alternative site and scrap building on Chalgrove Airfield entirely or use that new site as a backup if Chalgrove is turned down in an independent inspection.
The local plan outlines where the council wants to build homes until 2033.
Council leader John Cotton, who resigned as the leader of the council’s Conservative group earlier this month, said although keeping the plan as it was would be a ‘risk’, it would be better to ‘crack on’ than to delay its submission.
After his proposal was rejected, he wrote on Twitter that he was ‘deeply disappointed’ that the council had ‘rejected submitting the plan that we had previously concluded was best.’It is understood that other Oxfordshire councils worried that there was a ‘50/50 chance’ of SODC’s local plan failing had it been submitted as it stood earlier this week.
The airfield is owned by Government agency Homes England.
It has told the tenants, ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker, that it wants to take some of the land for building.
But Martin-Baker has resisted any approach, leading Homes England to threaten that it could use a compulsory purchase order to secure the land if no agreement is reached amicably.
Any building on Chalgrove Airfield is not supported by Oxfordshire Council Council, which has warned that the £90m offered by Homes England for roads infrastructure is about half of what it said it had expected.
The district council’s legal advice – which was referred to at Tuesday’s meeting but has yet to be made public – said the plan was ‘peppered with “considerable risk’, according to councillor Stefan Gawrysiak.
Graham Bell, from the Chalgrove Action Group, said the group supports the development of a local plan to stop speculative development ‘but it must be based on facts and evidence’.
He added: “This is not a plan based on facts and evidence and is based on the egos of some and intransigence of others.”All Oxfordshire’s councils could be affected if the local plan is delivered late. As part of the £215m Housing and Growth Deal, councils’ local plans must be submitted next spring.
Alternative sites could include Wick Farm, adjoining the Barton Park site, or Grenoble Road, south of Oxford.
Another could be new town Harrington, off the M40.
What are the options
- Chalgrove with a plan B. Not a goer the government will no commit to the full cost of highway works. In any event Chalgrove location not sustainable
- Harrington New Town. Next to an M40 junction – that’s sustainable. This general location could be a goer only if there was a restoration of the Wycombe railway line.
- Wycke Farm next to Barton Park. Next to Oxford Border, Green Belt better not wrong side of M40 and no rail access.
- Grenoble Road, next to Oxford, part owned by Oxford Council, integrated with town, will have rail access wit restoration of Wycombe line to Cowley. excellent access to Oxford business park. Green Belt. Some uncertainty re final route of Oxford-Cambridge expressway however of comes south of Oxford would form obvious edge of site.
Come down to Green Belt but sustainable v not Green Belt. The Green Belt is a tool to shape urban form not shape stupidity.