Chipping Norton land deal which could contribute to 1,000-home plan given go-ahead

Oxfordshire County Council's headquarters at County Hall in Oxford NNL-190219-185754009
Oxfordshire County Council's headquarters at County Hall in Oxford NNL-190219-185754009

A plan to buy land in Chipping Norton next to a plot Oxfordshire County Council already owns as space for potentially 1,000 new homes has been given the go-ahead.

The county council’s cabinet approved buying 30.9 acres of land next to Tank Farm, where it is already responsible for a 86.5 acre site.

‘Fast-moving’ negotiations had already been ‘concluded’ by the council’s leader Ian Hudspeth and its chief finance officer, Lorna Baxter, in December. They agreed the freehold purchase of the land.

The cost of the land to the council was left out of an official report because it was deemed to be commercially sensitive.

The council hopes the site, paired up with its other parcel of land, could be used for 1,000 new homes in the future. About 200 homes will be included on the newly-bought 30.9 acre site.

David Bartholomew, the council’s cabinet member for finance, said he was in favour of buying the land.

He said: “Nationally there’s growing concern about councils’ investment in land and property, specifically when it’s outside a council’s area and when it’s acquired for speculative development.”

Mr Bartholomew added: “This is completely different.

“This is in our area and has benefits in terms of enhancing the value of existing land and will have the benefit of delivering much needed houses in this area.

“This one ticks all the boxes. It’s in [the county council’s] area…and it’s residential. The opposite of that is outside area and speculative development.”

According to the Local Government Chronicle, 94 councils spent £2.4bn buying property solely to generate profit between 2010 and late 2017.

The council said not buying the land – and enabling the 200 extra homes – would not ‘significantly reduce’ infrastructure costs for the other potential 800.

But, without the purchase, it ‘would result in higher average average infrastructure costs’ per home.

The council added: “The effect [of that] would be to reduce the amount that a future developer would pay to the council for its existing land holding’.

John Sanders, Labour county councillor for Cowley, told the cabinet on Tuesday: “This project is long overdue. I’m very pleased it is where it is at long last.”

But he added he wanted the council to manage the development rather than developers.