Officials 'overwhelmed by a tsunami' of new-build applications at Cherwell District Council, claim councillors

Officials have complained they are being overwhelmed by a “tsunami” of new-build applications which could result in large areas of agricultural land being decimated.
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Cherwell District Council has been “inundated with planning applications” with some suggesting the issues extend far across Oxfordshire.

The Oxford ‘Growth Plan’ is being slammed as a root cause for the sudden influx of applications.

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This plan was set out by the city council to build 100,000 new homes across the county between 2011 and 2031 to address a severe shortage.

Councillors at Cherwell District Council complain the district has been “inundated with planning applications”.Councillors at Cherwell District Council complain the district has been “inundated with planning applications”.
Councillors at Cherwell District Council complain the district has been “inundated with planning applications”.

There are around six to seven applications currently under consideration in Cherwell as part of the local plan with one for the Begbroke Science Park in Yarnton apparently taking up a particularly large amount of time.

Ian Middleton, Green Party councillor and deputy leader of the opposition, said: “Expecting residents to examine all these applications, sometimes containing hundreds of documents and thousands of pages in only a few weeks is entirely unrealistic.

“This has led to a serious breakdown in the consultation process that means residents and parishes are not being given a genuine opportunity to examine and comment on applications.

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“In many cases I believe that some developers may be taking advantage of this situation to push applications through without proper scrutiny.”

Cherwell took on a chunk of houses after Oxford City Council made the case it could not fit any more houses in the city as part of this project.

Funding from the government was granted which the Conservative administration agreed to at the time despite some objection.

Phil Chapman, a Conservative district councillor who is on the council planning committee, disputes the claim there has been a sudden increase in applications.

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He said: “The planning department in Cherwell is always busy and it is busy now.

“That’s because it is a vibrant area.

“I don’t see any change.”

Cherwell District councillor Fiona Mawson added: “The district council apparently didn’t realise when they agreed to release all these sites from the Green Belt at once that it would generate such a huge potential workload for planners and councillors alike.”

Chris Cousins, from Planning Oxfordshire’s Environment (POETS), believes local authorities had signed up to the Growth Deal because finances were “in a bad way”.

He said: “The amount of money authorities get from the government has been cut dramatically in real terms.

“In many ways the deal is very bad for local people.

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“Large chunks of money were taken for not very much in return."

Planning experts have previously attacked Oxford City Council’s plan to push housing into rural areas, saying the authority has hugely exaggerated the number of new homes needed.

Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for climate change Dr Pete Sudbury, who is a Green party councillor and deputy leader of the council, said: “I think the Growth Deal was a dreadful idea because it is subsidising developers.

“The whole development scene in the UK is rigged in favour of developers and not in the best interest of citizens.”

Cherwell District Council has been contacted for comment.