At the start of the autumn, the Wheatley Neighbourhood Plan Committee engaged Community First Oxford (CFO) to organise a housing needs survey for Wheatley and Holton together with an additional questionnaire prepared directly by the Committee that asked the residents to express their view about the villages. The complete CFO report is available on the link below and everyone is invited to send in any comments on the report to the WNP Committee.
The response to the questionnaire was 35.7% which is well in line with the response that has been seen at local council elections during the last 10 years. So, we can attach a high rate of significance to the views expressed in the replies to the questionnaire.
Perhaps not surprisingly the CFO report highlighted the overwhelming need for affordable and starter homes in the villages. Before trying to satisfy this need it is first necessary to examine what is really meant by a “starter home” or “affordable housing”. Currently the average price for a house in the UK is around £300,000 with the average price for a home with two or fewer bedrooms is around £200,000. It is the latter house that most people would consider to be a starter home. However in the case of Wheatley and Holton the CFO report shows that only 15% of the houses are valued at £300,000 or less. It must be recognised however that the cost of starter homes is a general problem of the South East and not just Wheatley and Holton in particular.
In addition to emphasising the need for starter homes the CFO report also showed that the residents were not prepared to sacrifice the green belt for housing development but instead wanted more use to be made of “brownfield” sites.
The WNP questionnaire revealed that, in general, residents were mostly satisfied with the features, services and general environment provided by the villages. There were many constructive comments as to how the villages could be improved, in particular the High St. and its appearance. There were other areas of concern also highlighted (eg the state of pavements and footpaths) and hopefully many of them can be addressed in the future.
There was one significant source of dissatisfaction however… perhaps unsurprisingly traffic and parking. Congestion at peak times, “park and riders”, parking chaos at the primary school, Church Road blockages etc. Frustration and annoyance about all of these issues were expressed in the questionnaire. We may be reaching a “tipping point” with this issue.
The focus of much of the reported concern is that great unknown: the fate of the Oxford Brookes University (OBU) site that is due to be vacated by 2021-22. OBU intend to sell the site with planning permission for housing development. The exact number of houses that could be accommodated on the site is not yet clear but projections suggest that at least 300 homes could be provided. In general the questionnaire indicates there is very little objection to such a housing development. In fact many respondents welcomed the change of use and loss of the tower block! However, irrespective of the final number of homes there will inevitably be an impact on the villages and the response to the questionnaire highlighted a number of concerns and issues that hopefully will be addressed by the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan.
The full CFO report and the summary of the Community Questionnaire are available via the following links:
Please take the opportunity to review all the findings. Further comments and views are most welcome.