Hooky housing inquiry launched

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A PLANNING inquiry has been opened after a proposal for 70 homes in Hook Norton was refused by Cherwell District Council.

The application for land north of The Bourne and adjoining Bourne Lane was turned down by councillors in August and representatives from both the council and applicant Taylor Wimpey UK attended the start of a four-day hearing at Bodicote House on Tuesday.

MHBG-23-08-12 Emma Kane

MHBG-23-08-12 Emma Kane

Guy Williams, representing Cherwell District Council, said: “The development of the appeal site will have a significant impact on the visual appearance of the northern edge of the village and would clearly change its open, rural character.

“The matters raised by the reason for refusal go towards this central question of sustainability. The appeal proposals clearly are not plan-led, do not empower local people who strongly oppose the development and do not recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside.”

Along with the homes, Taylor Wimpey UK also submitted plans to create a public open space including a play area/amenity space, earthworks to facilitate surface water drainage, landscaping, car parking and a pumping station.

James Strachan, representing Taylor Wimpey UK, said: “The acute need for both market and affordable housing and the critical emphasis on planning for growth is well-documented nationally. As you would expect, Cherwell district is no exception.

“Typically, but unconvincingly, the council has sought to dispute some of the methods for assessing whether it has a five year supply of housing to meet its needs.

“Even if one uses the period most favourable to the council (2012-17), on the appellant’s assessment, the district wide supply, applying a 20 per cent buffer (which is the only sensible approach here), is down to 2.1 years.”

But Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry, who spoke at the inquiry, said the application was “opportunist” and it would be premature to consider it before Cherwell’s Local Plan was finalised.

More than 300 letters of objection to the proposal were sent to the council from villagers.

Emma Kane, vice chairman of Hook Norton Parish Council, said: “The general feeling in the village is that it is too big and therefore unsustainable.”

The inquiry is expected to end tomorrow (Friday).