5,000 homes bombshell dropped on Lower Heyford as company proposes new settlement

5000 homes plan at Lower Heyford. Cllr. James Macnamara. NNL-160426-165609009
5000 homes plan at Lower Heyford. Cllr. James Macnamara. NNL-160426-165609009

Angry Lower Heyford villagers are in disbelief at news that speculative developers want to build a 5,000-home settlement on their doorstep.

The company, Bonner Allan, has asked Cherwell District Council to consider its plan for a village called Great Heyford to be built across the Rousham conservation area between Lower Heyford and the former USAF airbase.

At a public meeting withdevelopers, parish council chair James Macnamara, a Cherwell councillor on the planning committee who lives in the village, said sparks flew.

“What the people of Lower Heyford thought is unprintable. They are very, very upset. There was one woman who found a park and ride would be put in near her house and another who discovered feeder roads would go next to his garden,” he said.

“Lower Heyford has 160 homes. This site is nearly half the size of Bicester and bigger than Kidlington. Many of its 12,000 people it would commute to Oxford. We have a small station but the trains could not manage even if you doubled the size of the trains.

“It is a complete non starter in terms of planning policy. Hopefully they went away knowing it was unpopular.”

The plans show 5,000 homes around a country park. There would be primary and secondary schools, GP, health and dental surgeries and shops, with land earmarked for commerce and light industry.

Cherwell has been asked to take some 3,500 extra houses for Oxford on top of the quota in its local plan and this proposal is among 126 offered to the council by developers.

Nigel Rankine of Bonner Allan said his company thought Cherwell might contribute more than 3,500 homes since other districts do not have such good rail links and had more constraints.

“We used scientific modelling to ascertain where no houses could be seen from the Rousham valley and this 783 acre farm accomplishes that.

“We are not seeking to compare in scale with the existing community. We wouldn’t swamp it or intrude. We are meeting with Network Rail to discuss upgrading the service from Oxford to Banbury.”

Cherwell’s planning officers are sifting through the 126 proposals made through a ‘Call for Sites’ appeal set up to find sites for the extra homes needed to help Oxford provide necessary housing.

They will come up with a list of recommended options in August which councillors will choose from. Those will be added to the second phase of the Cherwell Local Plan and government inspectors will decide if the options are acceptable.

Coincidentally Bonner Allan is planning a two-day consultation event in Lower Heyford in September at which greater detail of the plan will be available. But if Cherwell does not accept the premise of Great Heyford the company will back down.

Mr Rankine said: “If Cherwell District Council has no wish to include it in their local plan we would stop.

“We know people are not enamoured with it and that’s very understandable. It is a tiny community. Some at the public meeting said if they had wanted to live near a town they would have bought a home near Bicester. 
“But Cherwell has to decide where to contribute these 3,000 - 4,000 houses. They have the options of further expanding Banbury or Bicester or they could expand Upper Heyford (former air base). But we know there are several planning constraints with Upper Heyford and the only alternative is to create a new location. Ours is one potential solution.”

Mr Rankine said he thought planners would think one new community was ‘better planning’ than ten sets of 300 houses tacked on to existing larger villages.

Mr Macnamara said the land was owned by Corpus Christi College, Oxford who were interested in selling the farmland as a way of being able to fund education.

“This is the wrong way to do that,” he said.

“At all levels this is unsustainable in terms of it being green fields and nowhere near Oxford. It is completely out of scale in the wrong place and it doesn’t match any of the planning principles, locally or nationally. It is wrong on every level.”

Mr Macnamara described the brochure for the plan as ‘cobbled together’. It did not start with a transport plan and the developers did not know how they would get the 12,000 residents in or out, he said.

“They say they will engage transport consultants. One of the roadways on their brochure plan goes right across Rousham’s garden,” he said.

“Over the 30 years of the Cherwell Local Plan the total number of houses to be absorbed by category A villages, ones that have buses and shops such as Deddington, Adderbury and Hook Norton, is 750, with a total infil or ‘windfall’ homes of 450. Taking 40 or 50 homes per village is manageable but 5,000 is totally out of the question.”