Can our county, and district, realistically absorb 100,000 new homes that Oxfordshire has committed to seeing built in the 20 years, 2011 to 2031?
Clearly not. By the Spring of 2018, seven years and over a third of the way into the the plan period, we had built 15,000 homes – 15% of the planned number. And see what a kerfuffle that has caused! Congested roads, traffic mayhem, planning blight and abandoned building sites.
In South Oxfordshire, we have been building 600 homes a year. Under our District Council’s plan, currently in its Publicity Period, we will have to up this to an astronomical 1600 homes a year. With Brexit, the known skills shortage in Oxfordshire, and the many blighted sites already in South Oxfordshire, there is no reason to think we would speed up.
This matters. If local councils cannot prove that there is a ‘5-year land supply’ ie that houses are already underway that would result in 5 years worth of housing, then developers can argue there is not enough land available for them and they can grab more.
In West Wallingford, an allocation for Berkeley’s homes for 555 homes was made under the Core Strategy (2011). Nothing was done for 7 years. Then Berkeley’s beat local residents and the council in a planning appeal, to develop a site in a Conservation Area in South Wallingford. This, on the basis that South Oxfordshire was not meeting its 5-year land supply. The irony of this, is that Berkeley’s homes themselves were sitting on a 555 home site, ‘land-banking’, giving them the right to bid for more land.
85 homes have been rapidly built in South Wallingford over the last year. And now, Berkeley’s have started in West Wallingford – they took down most of our trees bordering the bypass – they levelled the field where larks once nested – they laid a swathe of concrete through it, and then, in September, they stopped.
We are told they will not come back until March at the earliest. Are they waiting for the slowing housing market to pick up, to offload the 85 South Wallingford homes? And by the devastation they have created in the West, are they simply staking a claim to the land so that their planning permission does not expire?
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