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Barton West development passes first planning hurdle
PLANS for the biggest housing development in Oxford in a generation have cleared their first hurdle after winning the approval of councillors.
The city council’s east area planning committee last night approved an outline planning application for the 885-home estate at a special meeting at the Town Hall.
The development will extend the existing Barton estate to the west, and include a new primary school, a park, a hotel, a supermarket and other shops and community facilities.
A total of £16.6m will also be spent by developer Barton Oxford LLP – a partnership of the city council and developer Grosvenor – on infrastructure like transport links, school places and community services.
The approval comes despite pleas from residents of nearby areas for planners to think again, with concerns about flooding, access and transport raised at the meeting.
But Labour and Lib Dem councillors approved the plans, claiming more detailed discussion would take place when a full application is made in the new year.
Addressing councillors before the decision was made, Northway residents Betty Fletcher and Elaine Bennett said the development would exacerbate flooding problems in their neighbourhood.
Stockleys Road resident Mrs Fletcher, 70, said: “This city can’t take any more development without renewing the system.
“Let’s do it properly instead of having these houses tapping into the old system.”
Mrs Bennett added: “Proper provision needs to be cast into this application. The current network is at bursting point.”
Independent Marston councillor Mick Haines also weighed into the debate.
He said: “I do agree we need more houses in Oxford but I’m afraid in this development the infrastructure is worth getting in first before a single house is built.”
Other politicians like county councillor Glynis Phillips, who represents Barton, spoke in favour of the bid but also raised concerns about some elements.
Ms Phillips said: “I support the proposal to create 885 new homes and other much-needed facilities because Oxford city and Oxfordshire desperately need more housing.
“But I’m concerned about the proposal to make the new development a controlled parking zone, as this will cause tension with the old Barton residents.
“I also question the need for a hotel on the site.
“I’m sure this site could be better utilised to provide more houses.”
Ms Phillips was also one of several councillors who requested that a pedestrian crossing over the A40 be included in the plans, a request which was taken on board by officers.
Grosvenor projects director Ed Skeates commended the plans to councillors and said the development was a big deal for the city.
He said: “By any standard this is a large application. It’s large for Oxford and it’s large nationally.
“It’s an application for 885 homes, acutely needed, of which approximately 350 will be affordable.
“We’ve heard this evening from objectors and they have very real concerns, but this is a highly-considered proposal and it’s a widely-consulted proposal.”
He said the developer had listened to residents’ concerns, changing the layout and bringing the number of homes down from 1,200 specified in the the original blueprint to 885 in the eventual bid.
But councillors were reminded the bid was an outline planning application, and that the full details would have to be approved next year.
During a question and answer session with planners, Headington councillor Ruth Wilkinson also raised concern about drainage and sewerage problems, and lamented the absence from the meeting of those responsible.
She said: “I’m really sad Thames Water are not here. I think it would have been really helpful. Residents in neighbouring areas have really lost confidence in their ability to manage things properly.”
City board member for development Colin Cook, who also sits on the committee, commended officers for their report, but said more discussion was needed with the developer so the council’s wishes could be accommodated.
He said: “I would like to thank officers for an excellent report.
“I hope that the applicant will take the opportunity to enter into dialogue with officers and come up with proposals which fit more with the officers’ view.”
Councillors Ruth Wilkinson and Mary Clarkson backed Ms Phillips’s call for the hotel to be removed, but the plans were approved as set out in the report, with the backing of all councillors except Green David Williams, who abstained.
Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Fletcher added: “They’re not going to sort out the problems, they’re going to do everything on the cheap.”