Land supply ‘could open floodgates’

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Fears Bicester could be forced to take even more new homes were voiced this week.

Concerns were raised on Monday, when Cherwell District Council set out its official position on the availability of new housing land.

Despite more than 2,000 new homes already set to be built in Kingsmere, Talisman Road and the first phase of the North West Bicester development, the district can only show a 2.8-year supply of land on paper.

Unless a five-year supply is available as per Government guidelines, villages and towns could be at risk from unsuitable development, some councillors fear.

So-called ‘reserve’ sites could now be built on, deputy council leader George Reynolds said, contrary to what residents may have been told.

Councillor Reynolds said: “One criticism is we appear to be reneging on promises made at the last consultation on the local development framework by saying reserve sites are up for grabs.”

He added: “We are apparently tonight throwing open the floodgates to applications on these sites.”

Reserve housing sites include one close to Bicester’s new Kingsmere estate.

He criticised a national planning situation he said favoured ‘a numbers game’ over local councils’ abilities.

Councillor Les Sibley said: “I get worried when this authority turns down planning applications, and one that springs to mind is the Talisman centre, and then they go and win on appeal on the basis we’re not able to demonstrate a five-year supply.”

Councillor Michael Gibbard, CDC’s lead member for housing, denied the suggestion.

He said: “Cllr Reynolds is quite right we seem to be at the mercy of a numbers game. In recent planning history the five-year supply has been a key factor in several applications and appeals.

“But we must remember that’s not the only factor in deciding applications.”

He added: “This is not a green light to development on those sites because they have to be considered on all the planning reasons.”