MP takes a stand over ‘opportunist’ homes

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Bicester’s MP has said the area should be made safe from ‘opportunist’ housing developments in a letter to the chief executive of Cherwell District Council (CDC).

Sir Tony Baldry said there was concern at the number of recent applications to build houses in rural locations around the district, against the wishes of communities.

He said developers had been encouraged to go for such schemes by the decisions of planning inspectors, who have not taken land already granted permission for development into account when deciding whether or not to give the go-ahead.

Planning authorities such as Cherwell District Council must be able to demonstrate they have a five-year supply of land for housebuilding under current legislation.

But a footnote to the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), released earlier this year, allows developers to challenge councils if the sites they have designated are considered unviable.

In response to Sir Tony’s enquiry, planning minister Greg Clarke said: “The policy is clear that unimplemented planning permissions count towards the five year supply.

“The footnote does require consideration to be given to whether such permissions can be expected to be built.”

Sir Tony said he did not believe the Bankside development in Bodicote was unviable.

He added: “Similarly, I do not believe Dorchester Group purchased Heyford Park without intending to refurbish the 300 existing buildings and build 700 new houses, or that the developer who owns the sites at Kingsmere at Bicester intends to do anything other than utilise their planning permission.”

Sir Tony said it was reasonable to assume CDC does have a five-year supply of land, unless developers could demonstrate planning permission had been, “...granted deliberately to thwart housing development in the district.”

He said it was difficult to see how the Planning Inspectorate could reach a different conclusion. Sir Tony said he had made his letters public due to the importance of the matter.