Controversial Sibford plan grinds to a halt

The plans, delineated in red, show the proposed development's homes, allotments, orchard and play ground area on the Hook Norton Road south of the village
The plans, delineated in red, show the proposed development's homes, allotments, orchard and play ground area on the Hook Norton Road south of the village

In a rare show of solidarity dozens of Sibford residents packed Cherwell District Council’s planning committee chamber to show their opposition to a proposed housing development.

The submitted plan for 25 homes, nine of which were affordable with additional amenities on the southern edge of Sibford Ferris, had been vehemently opposed.

Online opposition alone drew 110 public comments, with just one in support and the plan was also in the crosshairs of both Sibford Parish Councils and the Sibford Action Group who spoke at the Thursday, April 18 meeting.

CDC planning officer Bob Neville, said: “A number of issues raised in objection relate to the principle of development, the number of houses, the appropriate mix of houses, further concerns are is doesn’t reflect the wishes of the community and the Sibford 2012 Community Plan.

He added: “A significant number of objections related to traffic issues and highway safety.”

Despite the opposition the outline plans had been recommended for approval.

There were some intriguing planning nuances to the scheme that were repeatedly highlighted by both the two public speakers and councillors.

Sibford has been classed as a category A village in CDC’s Local Plan which looks at population, services, infrastructure to understand which villages are in principle best placed to sustain different levels of residential development.

Sibford, however, is composed of Sibford Gower, and Sibford Ferris and Burdrop with two separate parish councils and little in the way of connectivity between the two Sibfords.

Nevertheless, a a class A village, it has been designated a quota of 750 new homes by 2031, when the Local Plan expires.

Sibford Cllr Phil Chapman said: “ We are well on target, ahead if anything, which is set to be achieved in 2031. This case rests, good or bad, on that target of 750.

“In a recent report by one of the officers his estimate suggests we would hit 537 built by 2021 or, at an upper limit, 713.

“We’re likely to hit between 70 and 90 per cent of our target by 2021 with ten years to run. I’m going to be moving for refusal.”
The motion to refuse was seconded by Sibford Cllr Davis Hughes.

Another quirk of the officers report was highlighted by Cllr James Macnamara who said: “When asked to give a preliminary opinion the council had concerns with the principle of the development, with the sustainability of the location and it had concerns with compliance to council policies, absolutely, that’s the council’s view .

“We’re here to implement our own development plan and the officers report quite clearly shows how the application does not comply.

He added: “The only thing I disagree with is the slightly peculiar conclusion at the end of it to be recommended for approval.”

Cllr Chris Heath again spoke with passion saying: “This is grade 2 agricultural land, why would we build on this? Once it’s gone it’s gone. In the future we may need all the grade two land that we can manage to feed our growing population. So for God’s sake stop building on it.”

In a rare moment of elation at a planning committee meeting Cllr Heath was given a round of applause by Sibford residents in attendance.

The motion to refuse the plan was passed by 13 votes for, none against with four abstentions.