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‘10 houses rule’ could halt West Oxford homes plan
A PLAN for nine homes in West Oxford should be refused as it does not offer enough affordable housing, a city planning officer has said.
Banner Homes wants to build nine houses in Abbey Road at the site of a former Avis car rental business, which moved out last year.
Developments of 10 homes or more must be at least 50 per cent affordable under Oxford City Council rules.
Council planning officer Matthew Parry has recommended councillors refuse the plan at a meeting next Tuesday.
He said: “The site is of a size, layout and location close to the city centre such that it could reasonably accommodate residential development to a significantly greater density than that proposed through the provision of a greater mix of dwelling sizes and types.
“The site therefore has the capacity to provide at least 10 dwellings.
“However the proposals fail to make provision for 50 per cent of the dwellings on site to be affordable homes, or to robustly justify on viability grounds either a lesser proportion on site or a financial contribution towards off-site provision.”
Banner said that following a site meeting discussing a draft scheme, a planning officer had recommended the site was viable for only nine homes and it would still have to give 15 per cent of the plan’s sale value, £658,000, for affordable homes. But the council said this is too little.
Labour executive board member for city development Colin Cook said: “We have a policy in general terms of not allowing developers to artificially divide up a site or limbo under the 10 houses rule in order to avoid social housing.
“We have seen applicants trying to avoid the social housing requirement by either under occupying a site or to a lesser extent artificially dividing it up. But the officers are wise to that sort of thing and that might be why we have not seen that many instances of it.
“Some developers will try it on but we know what sites are capable of holding and some will fall above the 10 threshold while others will fall below it.”
One resident wrote to the council about the plans to offer “general support”, Mr Parry said.
But they also wrote: “A system needs to be installed that stores excess water to dispense slowly, avoiding flooding as the sewers are currently inadequate.”
Oxfordshire County Council, responsible for roads, urged against giving residents on-street parking permits, but one per home was supported by Mr Parry.
A spokesman for Banner Homes said it had discussed a draft scheme for nine four-bedroom houses as well as affordable housing during a planning officer’s site meeting in November 2012.
He said: “Essentially the planning officer considered the strong character of Abbey Road was such that only a scheme of nine houses could be satisfactorily accommodated.
“On this number of dwellings the affordable housing policy provides only for an off-site financial contribution, which we have offered as part of our planning application.”
He said despite the strong local support for the plan shown at an exhibition, planning officers have since “changed their position” and now feel the site can accommodate more than nine dwellings.
He said: “We do not believe that we have deliberately designed a scheme to avoid the provision of on-site affordable housing but have carefully followed the planning officer’s advice and the views of local people to produce a scheme that will considerably enhance the character of Abbey Road.
“We are therefore very disappointed that the application is to be recommended for refusal.”
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