Future of town lies in hands of inspector

Bodicote House ENGNNL00120121128125532
Bodicote House ENGNNL00120121128125532

The final decision on whether to implement Cherwell District Council’s submitted Local Plan is expected to be announced by a Government planning inspector in spring 2015.

At Bodicote House last week, inspector Nigel Payne concluded the three-week examination into the 76,000 page document, which outlines the council’s preferred sites to deliver 22,800 homes and 234.5 hectares of employment space between 2011 and 2031.

During the course of the hearing Mr Payne heard from Cherwell officers and more than 150 interested parties, including town and parish councils and neighbouring local authorities.

Councillor Michael Gibbard, lead member for planning, said: “It has taken ten years, numerous officers and thousands of man hours to get the submitted Local Plan to this stage but we are finally on the home straight.

“We have presented what we believe to be the most suitable sites to accommodate the housing numbers which we have been targeted and the subsequent employment sites which are needed to support our future residents.

“The inspector will now review all of the evidence before announcing whether to endorse, refuse or amend the plan in spring next year.

“Until then we will continue to use the submitted Local Plan as guidance for any planning applications which we receive between now and then to prevent sporadic and speculative development which is contrary to our preferred locations.”

Councillors approved the initial plan in October 2013 and it was submitted to Westminster in January 2014. The examination got under way in June of the same year but was suspended to incorporate revised housing targets by Oxfordshire’s Strategic Housing Market Assessment.

In amending the plan, officers revisited 200 sites which had previously been discounted and reviewed an additional 300. The redrafted plan includes an additional 6,050 homes added to the original plan for 16,750 for the district between 2011-2031.

The revised document has proposed 7,319 homes for Banbury. This includes 1,345 homes at Salt Way East on what was previously earmarked as a green buffer zone around Banbury, 150 homes at Salt Way West, 250 at Drayton Lodge Farm and 150 in Higham Way, Grimsbury.

Proposed additions to sites already earmarked in the original Local Plan include an extra 200 for Bankside phase two and an extra 44 north of Hanwell Fields. Two hundred homes are also earmarked for Bolton Road which was previously cited for retail and leisure use. An additional 1,600 homes are proposed at former RAF Upper Heyford but the number of homes suggested for Canalside has been reduced from 950 to 700. To accommodate the additional houses, the amount of employment land has also been increased from 33 hectares to 96 hectares in Banbury.

A six-week public consultation ran in August and September inviting feedback on the amendments before councillors voted to support the revised document at a meeting in October. It was this document which was then presented to Mr Payne at the resumption of the examination, which ran from December 9-23.

If the inspector endorses the plan, or recommends amendments which are accepted by the council, the Local Plan could be adopted this spring.