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Housing masterplan for 8,000 homes is given the go-ahead
THE WAY has been cleared for thousands of new homes to be built across Oxford.
A government inspector has approved a housing masterplan setting out where homes should be built in the city over the next 13 years.
Oxford City Council’s sites and housing development plan document, which has been declared sound, also includes policies on where student housing and shared homes can be located.
It is part of the city council’s commitment to building 8,000 houses by 2026 and the document itself allocates around 45 sites involving more than 2,000 homes.
The news was welcomed by councillors and residents, who had complained parts of the city were fast becoming “student ghettos”.
During the course of the inquiry in September, inspector Shelagh Bussey made a series of criticisms about aspects of the city council’s plan.
Under the plan, housing developments with between four and nine homes will now have to make financial contributions towards affordable housing elsewhere in Oxford.
Before the threshold for making a contribution was 10 homes.
But Colin Cook, Oxford City Council board member for city development, said a number of compromises had overcome the concerns.
He said: “We are very pleased that the inspector has approved the plan as it means that we can seek financial contributions from small sites and student accommodation that will deliver much needed affordable housing in Oxford, in addition to our established affordable housing requirements from large housing sites.
“We have been proactive in finding sites for new housing development which will help to meet the huge housing shortfall in Oxford and at the same time providing on-site renewable energy generation or low-carbon technologies.”
A number of sites which the city council looked into earmarking for development proved controversial and were dropped, including the Headington car park and Oxford Stadium.
Residents’ groups said they were hopeful the council could now go ahead with imposing limits on the number of shared houses in residential areas, as set out in the plan.
The document includes a cap limiting the number of houses in multiple occupation (or HMOs) to a maximum of 20 per cent of houses in any 100 metre stretch of residential road.
It also says purpose-built student accommodation must be away from residential areas to minimise disturbance. The council proposed that student accommodation should be mainly located in the city centre or adjacent to a main thoroughfare, to relieve pressure on residential streets.
Sietske Boeles, of East Oxford Residents’ Associations Forum, made up of 20 residents’ groups, said: “We see this as a huge achievement after all our campaigning. The council has listened to residents and it deserves credit for that. The whole object of the city council policies is to promote more balanced communities.
“The policy allows enough flexibility to allow HMOs to be created elsewhere, for there is still an issue of young professional people who cannot afford to buy a house in Oxford.”
The city council has also had to listen to complaints from both Oxford’s universities, unhappy about a proposal to make them contribute to social housing as the price of being allowed to build new student accommodation.
The policy would add significantly to the cost of building student accommodation – with a charge of £140 per square metre, plus a five per cent administration charge.
After seeking legal advice, colleges said the policy was unlawful and amounted to “a specialist local tax”, but in her report Dr Bussey said the policy was “appropriate, justified and viable”.
The sites and housing development plan document is now set to be approved at a meeting of the full council on Monday, February 18.