A PLANNING inspector has delivered a major blow to city council plans to control the spread of shared and student housing in Oxford.
Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University have both bitterly opposed “a housing tax” introduced by the council, to make them contribute to social housing as the price of being allowed to build new student accommodation.
The council policy adds significantly to the cost of student homes, with a “social housing charge” of £140 per square metre, plus a five per cent administration charge.
But now planning inspector Shelagh Bussey has expressed concerns, warning the council that she found the policy “ineffective” and “unsound”.
In her note to the inquiry, she was equally critical of the policy to control the spread and locations of houses of multi-occupation (HMOs).
The city council will today be given an opportunity to change her mind when the issue goes before an inquiry into the city’s sites and housing plans and policies at the Town Hall.
But the inspector issued the statement after hearing evidence about the city’s affordable homes policies last week.
Lawyers acting for university colleges had warned that the “housing” tax was legally flawed and would deter development of purpose-built student homes.
The council claimed that the charge was necessary to deter developers from building student accommodation instead of family homes. But the inspector said in her statement: “I consider that the policy is ineffective and therefore unsound because its implementation strategy is not robust.
“It has not been demonstrated how the required contribution to affordable housing would in all cases be clearly related to the development proposed, especially in respect of sites specifically allocated in the plan for student accommodation.”
Turning to the council’s policy of only allowing homes to be turned into multi-occupied houses in stretches of streets where the number of HMOs do not exceed 20 per cent, the inspector said: “Insufficient evidence has been presented to indicate that the policy is likely to have the intended positive outcome.”
Her statement was published on the city council’s website on Monday. But the council’s head of city development, Michael Crofton-Briggs, remained confident the inspector’s concerns would be answered today.
He said: “The council has been requested to carry out further work. She has put these points to us and we shall respond to them. We will be seeking to persuade the inspector that these policies are sound.”
The two-week inquiry will end tomorrow.
FAILURE OF POLICY
TEMPLE Cowley Pools’ allocation for housing development represents a “failure” of Oxford City Council’s planning policy.
That’s what a hearing into the city council’s plans to earmark more than 60 sites across Oxford for development heard yesterday.
As part of the sites and housing plan, the pools are set aside for residential development and they will be replaced by a new £9.2m facility in Blackbird Leys.
But some people have objected to the plans to close Temple Cowley Pools.
At the hearing, Judith Chipchase, of Oxfordshire
Green Party, told the planning inspector the pools should not have been earmarked for development.
She said: “This proposal is a failure of planning policy because the community has opposed it.
“They were very concerned because this is a community facility and they will not have one in the area [if it is developed].”
Mark Jaggard, of Oxford City Council, said: “Temple Cowley Pools is not fit for purpose.
Oxford is very lucky in having a lot of swimming pool provision.”
Sport England did not object to the proposal because the pools would be replaced with a facility in Blackbird Leys.