Inspector backs Cherwell Local Plan bringing 22,840 new homes a step closer to reality

Cherwell District councillors approved plans for a development of 42 sheltered apartments on the site of the former Winner's Bargains Centre in Bicester.

Cherwell District councillors approved plans for a development of 42 sheltered apartments on the site of the former Winner's Bargains Centre in Bicester.

  • Council publishes inspector’s report on draft Local Plan, which sets out the future development of Cherwell District up to 2031
  • Inspector concludes plan is an “appropriate basis” for planning the district but issues several modifications
  • Development at Junction 11 of the M40 will be on a smaller scale
  • The former RAF Upper Heyford site will now get more development
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An 18-month review of Cherwell District Council’s Local Plan by a government inspector has concluded the document is an “appropriate basis” for planning development of the district until 2031 and can now proceed towards adoption

Today (Friday), Cherwell District Council published the findings of the planning inspector Nigel Payne’s examination the draft Local Plan setting out the development of 22,840 homes and 200 hectares of employment land between 2011 and 2031.

The adoption of the Local Plan and the fact we now have a five year land supply will discourage inappropriate and speculative applications as we will have a legally sound document which clearly defines our approved sites for development.

Cllr Michael Gibbard, Cherwell’s lead member for planning

In his report Mr Payne concluded the council had complied with all of the necessary legal requirements in preparing the plan and had allocated suitable sites to meet the district’s future growth. He has issued a number of modifications to the plan with now sets out 7,319 homes for Banbury; 10,129 homes in Bicester and 5,392 homes elsewhere including a total of about 2,361 at Former RAF Upper Heyford. To support economic growth, the plan delivers 61 hectares of employment land in Banbury and 138.5 hectares in Bicester.

Cllr Michael Gibbard, Cherwell’s lead member for planning, said: “Mr Payne supported all of the sites allocated for housing and employment with some modifications and did not propose any additional sites for development. His report is the penultimate stage of a ten year process to get a new Local Plan adopted and having received the report, the final stage is for councillors to accept the Inspector’s recommendations. If they do, the Local Plan will be implemented with immediate effect.

“The adoption of the Local Plan and the fact we now have a five year land supply will discourage inappropriate and speculative applications as we will have a legally sound document which clearly defines our approved sites for development. Cherwell will no longer be held to ransom by opportunistic developers and will once again be in charge of its own destiny.”

Councillor Sean Woodcock, leader of the Labour group on Cherwell District Council, hailed the report as marking the beginning of the end for the developer “free for all” in the district. He said “We are very pleased the Local Plan has been accepted approval. We have been calling for this for a long time as the council has been very slow in getting it done.

“Hopefully this is a plan we can all get behind and try to make it work for the people of this district.”

The Local Plan was first submitted to the Government for consideration in January 2014 and was followed by an examination in public in June the same year. However the examination was suspended until December to allow Cherwell to revise its housing figures in line with Oxfordshire’s recently published Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA).

Following a three week hearing at the end of last year involving more than 150 interested parties, Mr Payne retired to consider his recommendations and offer any amendments. Although he has made no changes to the location of sites for housing or the quantity allocated, Mr Payne has reduced the amount of employment land in Banbury bordering south Northamptonshire by 36 hectares. This site had been allocated for mixed employment uses but Mr Payne concluded that a smaller site would be more appropriate.

The other significant change was the removal of the council’s proposal for allocated ‘green buffers’ of land between urban and rural areas to protect their separate identity. This was removed as Mr Payne considered it to be unnecessary as other policies and the adoption of the plan itself would offer the same protection.

Subsequently, the document proposes 7,319 homes for Banbury; 10,129 homes in Bicester and 5,392 homes elsewhere including a total of about 2,361 at Former RAF Upper Heyford. To support economic growth, the plan delivers 61 hectares of employment land in Banbury and 138.5 hectares in Bicester.

The Inspector’s report and the Local Plan will now be put before a full council meeting on 20 July and if members agree to adopt the plan, it will be implemented immediately and used to guide all future planning applications.