25/05/11....Council clashes with Inspector over 'windfall' sites for housing -
SOUTH Oxfordshire District Councillors and planners have had there first run-in with the Planning Inspector who will pass judgement on the council's Core Strategy for housing and economic development for the next 16 years.
Following a preliminary public meeting last week to sort out some issues of 'soundness' that the inspector has with the CS, SODC has since taken issue with his view that the council cannot rely on so-called 'windfall' sites coming up in the future to provide some of its allocation of new homes between 2022 and 2027. (Windfall sites are sites suitable for development but are either too small for inclusion in the council’s core strategy or their particular availability cannot be predicted at the time the core strategy is prepared.)
The Inspector has also recommended that the next Hearing be postponed from July to November to give SODC time to address some of his other areas of concern.
(See his full statement via LINK below)
In a statement today, SODC said: "Following extensive consultation across the district last year the council decided that because it can be predicted that many homes will come forward on windfall sites, they should be included as part of the supply needed for us to meet our housing ambitions for the district.
"This approach was welcomed by local communities in the district as it meant smaller numbers of homes had to be allocated to named sites."
District Council Leader, Ann Ducker, said: “We listened carefully to the concerns of residents about the impact of large developments. We want housing growth to meet the needs of our new households and to fuel jobs growth but it is important that new neighbourhoods are assimilated gradually into local communities with infrastructure to match.
“Our preferred approach was to allocate specific sites to meet in full the housing numbers for the first 10 years and this was strongly supported in the consultation responses. We are absolutely confident that enough homes will be built on windfall sites to allow us to reduce the impact made by large scale housing sites.
“However, we’ve been told we have to allocate all the homes for the next 15 years to named sites. We don’t think this is within the spirit of localism, when we had found a solution that our communities supported.”
Following a meeting at the council’s offices on May 17, the inspector has written to the council giving his views on main parts of the council’s Core Strategy. He has told the council that its approach to allocating the required housing numbers is inconsistent with national policy which states that windfalls can only be counted if it is not possible to identify specific sites for years 11 to 15 of the plan period.
Cabinet member for Planning, Angie Paterson, said: "It is very disappointing to see the conclusions the inspector has drawn on our use of windfalls. It is not the council's wish to make changes to the housing numbers for larger sites but it is being required of us by the decision of the planning inspector. We are considering our options on how best to take matters forward.
“Changes need to be made that address the points raised by the planning inspector. I can reassure residents and businesses that we will ensure that there is an opportunity for them to feed into this process with their comments.
“Given that this is about our strategic sites, this primarily affects our two market towns of Wallingford and Thame. We have previously explored the potential for Site B in Wallingford to accommodate more homes than are currently allocated and will be looking at this again. Certainly, such an option would not require any additional greenfield sites to be released around Wallingford.
"At Thame we will explore the potential for sites within the town to provide sufficient land. And we
will have to allocate more housing to the larger villages too.
“Within the next few days we will release further details about what we intend to do to address the matters raised by the inspector. This will include details of when and how the public will be able to express their views on the proposed changes.”
Visit SODC's website HERE to view all documents and relevant information about the Core Strategy
The core strategy is a 15 year plan setting out how the council will help deliver housing, opportunities for employment and thriving town centres across the district. It makes recommendations for development in the main towns Wallingford, Thame, Henley and Didcot. Didcot is designated as a growth point and is set to
take the primary focus of development, taking approximately 2330 new homes over the next 15 years.