‘…at least 300 homes’
Draft Local Plan Allocation figures, 2016-2018, Oxford Brookes University Wheatley Campus, ‘Strategic Site’ and ‘Complex Case’
‘[WNP] needs to be in General Conformity with an existing adopted Local Plan as a Basic Condition …[or with] the strategic polices of a new Local Plan when adopted … [an NP] can also anticipate uncertainty in a Local Plan by using well-evidenced criteria-based policies to influence scale and location.’
(Planning Advice England, Royal Town Planning Institute, to WNP, June 2016)
- Draft LP 2032 (2015) allocated 180 homes to Wheatley in 2015. WNP convened Jan. 2016.
- 01 June 2016, Second Draft LP 2032 exempted Wheatley from allocation, proposing instead a strategic ‘mixed-use development’ with ‘likely net capacity of at least 300 dwellings’ on the OBU site [p.39]: WNP and Stakeholders to agree. This was followed with ‘300 homes allocated on a brownfield site’ [p.88, number stated without qualification].
- 13 July 2016, Open Day, SODC Draft Local Plan 2032 and WNP combined. Display map of OBU Campus site was confusing (campus map appeared to be co-terminous with the development site map). WNP Adviser said ‘It should not have been used’.
- Excerpt, letter from Sue Holmes, Estates Director, Oxford Brookes University, to John Fox,Chairman Wheatley Neighbourhood Plan, 11 August 2016
‘We have decided to sell Wheatley Campus. … We have had an initial discussion with senior SODC officers. As you know SODC identifies our site for … at last 300 dwellings in its Local Plan, currently out to consultation. I also understand the [WNP] considers housing the preferred use for the site*. With our charitable status [we] have an obligation to realise best value … from residential development. However the possibility of some or all of the site being re-used for a use other than housing cannot be discounted.
The SODC Local Plan refers to ‘at least 300 dwellings’ on the site, but in discussions with senior council officers and others, we know that the site has the potential to make a greater contribution to the area’s housing targets. Based on other sites of this size, type and location, a more realistic but conservative is double that figure … we would be looking to propose significantly more than 300 dwellings.’
*Note from WNP chairman John Fox –‘At this time the WNP had no opinion to express as full consultation of the community had yet to be completed.’
- July-November 2016 figures of between 600-900 homes for the OBU site in Oxon press were read by many as allocations, as shown in the responses from wider South Oxon to LP Public Consultation, and in sessions of Wheatley and Holton Parish Councils. In October-November capacity-testing by OBU Agents for ‘750 homes’ on the OBU site was dramatised in the press and read by many as a planning application. WNP published a refutation / clarification in November to puncture the bubble. The ambiguity damaged public debate in the community.
- 07 September 2016, WNP invited Planning Officers to Wheatley to answer questions. Meeting attended by by A. Yeates, HPC Chairman, and two SODC Planning Officials invited to help clarify Draft Local Plan issues. See summarised points notably Q 3 and Q 4 on the OBU site. Apologies were given for the confusing maps used in latest LP Public Consultation. It was stated that ‘SODC cannot agree that they will not approve  … as a survey [capacity] needs to be done first’. It was further stated the concern over the confusion caused not just by statements but also by mapping used during Public Consultation, that taking any of the OBU site beyond the agreed built-form out of Green Belt for housing development would still require ‘exceptional circumstances.’ Neither 300 nor 600 were denied or confirmed, but described as ‘minimums only’ and ‘not yet tested’. For record of the meeting with the planners go to, EB SODC 4 WNP and Holton PC Chair question Plan Officers, 07 September 2016, summary. (a fuller account of answers to that shown in the minutes) or EB WNP Committee Minutes, 10, 2016 09 07 WNP turned aside to get on with its Statutory Survey(s), August-October.
- 06 December 2016, WNP met with SODC Chairman, Planners and two new Advisers. ‘End of the 750 homes sensation !’ [SODC Chairman]. Local Green Space, it was suggested, might help replace Green Belt. The allocation figure of ‘300 homes’ was tacitly accepted. Go to EB SODC 6, WNP meet with SODC Chairman and new adviser, 06 Dec 2016 for record of meeting with SODC.
- First Draft WNP sent to Advisers for comment 03 March 2017. WNP was asked to delete ‘at least 300 houses’, and parishes advised to request OBU site be made Local Green Space and abide by a looser re-drawn outline OBU site. Confidentiality was required. WNP decided to convene both its parish councils on 13 March, to inform and clear the air.
- Draft LP 2033 (1), 29 March 2017, advocated ‘at least 300 homes’. The Policy Box also confirmed ‘approximately 300 homes’ all ‘on the built form’.
- 20 June, 2017, WNP, WPC and HPC met for NP Public Consultation. The figures 300 and 750 still distracted, one councillor requesting that WPC resign itself to 750 and abandon WNP support for a consistent 300 as ‘bravado’.
- October-November 2017 LP 2033 (2), Public Consultation: ‘at least 300 new homes [to reflect] existing pattern of built development existing built form provides significant footprint and volume in determining any planning application.’ Policy Box ‘at least 300 new homes in a scheme of appropriate scale and layout to respect listed buildings and structures, to buffer and protect scheduled monuments and to retain the quantum of existing sports pitches’. [pp. 48-52]
- 30 November 2017, Oxfordshire CC response to 10. above: ‘the acceptable quantum in the allocation should be much clearer … some 300 homes [because] ‘at least 300’ provides little guidance [and] should be replaced with ‘approximately 300′. With reference to the OBU Agent’s ‘surprising’ attempt in 2016 to show space for ‘up to 750 homes’, OCC pointed out that transport and both schools would be unduly stretched, unless by the time of Inspection of LP 2033 it can be shown the impact on them can be mitigated.’
- In February 2018 OBU agents GVA submitted outline proposals for developing the Campus site with 500 homes across its East- West extremities. This clashed with the original Local Draft Plan limits of 300 homes on the built-form (first stated, June 2016) to the east of the site. A further amendment was added in October 2018. Local opposition was strong. It was put to SODC Planning Committee on 28 November 2018 and rejected by councillors by 8:1(abstention) on many stated grounds, including lack of adequate infrastructure – traffic, doctors, schools – and lack of connectivity with existing settlements. The 500 houses would have had no facilities (save a token proposed small shop) and no dedicated pedestrian bridge (save the existing Holton fly-over with expanded pavements and narrowed road lanes.)
- Final Draft Wheatley Neighbourhood Plan. To be added when published 2018