Petition: Witney North Local Plan Housing Allocation
To report on the presentation of a petition calling for the reconsideration of the Local Plan strategic housing site allocation at Witney North, and provide some comment to be taken into account
That Council considers the petition calling for it to reconsider the North Witney Local Plan Housing Allocation, in the context of the information and comment contained in the report.
Councillor Enright reported on the presentation of a petition calling for the reconsideration of the North Witney Local Plan Housing Allocation in the context of the information and comment contained in the report. He stated that this was a sincere effort by local residents to ask for reconsideration of the Witney North plan. He explained that the impetus for the petition had been the floods at Christmas 2020 which were in the exact area earmarked for development. Although some work was undertaken in 2007, the remedies did not work at the time. He stated that the flooding itself was a strong enough reason enough to ask the Council to consider this again. The 2007 flood was sighted as a 1 in 150 year event but recent issues proved that this was not the case. Councillor Enright concluded by advising that sewer capacity in the region was an issue and traffic concerns from that development were stated as quite grave.
Councillor Mead proposed that the petition be received and noted and be considered as part of the local plan review. Councillor Harvey seconded the proposal.
Councillor Davies felt this was a political petition and queried if Councillor Enright had used it for re-election purposes. She believed that residents had been misled and the development could not be disposed of. She also believed that residents may have been misled as to the result of this petition being upheld.
Councillor Langridge did not agree with Councillor Davies. He felt that Councillor Enright had done an excellent job and stated that, in his opinion, the development should never have been put in the local plan. He felt that the flooding situation had worsened since the development’s inclusion, resulting in dangerous and raging torrents of water. He continued to state that the Council were planning to put 1000 homes in those areas, which would need the West End link road to work. He advised that there was no money for this but it would require a road across the floodplain, threatening floods for the whole of Oxford. He concluded by confirming that the Witney Flood Action Group felt that this development should not go ahead but Witney South or Carterton would be better locations.
Councillor Coles was saddened by Councillor Davies position. He felt that Members should respect the concerns of all residents of West Oxfordshire. He added that the petition had been started and encouraged by Councillor Enright but was supported by a large number of residents. He felt the situation had worsened and residents genuinely felt it would deteriorate further if the development went ahead.
Councillor Dingwall was pleased that the petition was going forward for consideration in the local plan. He stated that he was astonished that Councillor Enright had not learned from previous experience regarding the Coggs Link road. He went on to state that stopping that development had removed the only defence against speculative development; the result was an increase from 7600 houses to almost 16000 houses and money had to be given back to developers who had invested in the proposed development.
Councillor Dingwall went on to state that speculative development over the last six or seven years had meant there were 500 houses in the Windrush Valley and hundreds of houses in other towns and villages around the District. He concluded by stating that the development of the Local Plan was the only defence against speculative development.
Councillor Haine directed a comment to Councillor Enright who he stated had been a member of the Development Control Committee for a long time. He reminded Councillor Enright that the Local Plan had taken a long time to get in place and Councillor Enright had made no reference to where the 1400 houses should be relocated. He felt that if this allocation was withdrawn, the Local Plan could be lost and there was a danger that land would be developed anyway without the checks and balances of the Council. A master plan of development was being drawn up with 560 affordable homes, along with a primary school and flood prevention measures and a new road would be constructed across the river, reducing traffic and helping air quality.
Councillor Acock reminded Councillor Enright that did not vote against this in 2018 when he had the chance. He echoed Councillor Davies’ comments relating to political motivation and this being for the benefit of Councillor Enright’s election to the Council.
Councillor Graham thought the points raised were interesting and reminded the meeting that flooding issues went back beyond the recent December flooding. He felt that unless infrastructure was put in place to start with, the plan was generally going nowhere. He concluded by stating that a failure to address the lack of sewers would continue to plague the area and the principle of the petition was about the people who reside in the area.
In summing up, Councillor Harvey stated that he felt Councillor Enright was wrong. He advised that it had never been assumed that the 2007 floods were a 1 in 150 year event. However, it was recorded as unprecedented for the last 150 years and it had not been suggested that it would be another 150 years before a repeat event. The Council had accepted that climate change was happening and flood alleviation measures were continually being considered. He concluded by reminding Members that the Council had also looked at what happened in the area during the extremely cold icy winters, because climate change was occurring 12 months of the year.
Councillor Cooper asked to respond to a point raised by Councillor Haine. He stated that he had proposed an amendment to remove houses out of Witney to an alternative location but this had been voted against. He believed scrutiny of the last Local Plan had not been good enough however he had confidence in the current Chairman of the scrutiny committee.
Having been considered and debated, the Council
That that the petition be received and noted and would be considered as part of the Local Plan review.