CALA Homes have lodged an appeal against West Oxfordshire District Council’s (WODC’s) decision to reject their application to build 68 houses on the Woodstock Road. This appeal is to be heard by a formal inquiry.

Stonesfield residents have another opportunity to comment and influence the outcome. Over 200 letters of objection were written to WODC in the initial planning process.

We urge everybody to write to the Planning Inspectorate. The closing date for comments is 11 October 2018. A model letter can be found in the separate post “Model letter for CALAmity”

Your letters written in 2017 objecting to the development have been sent to the Inspectorate so there is no need to repeat those points. However, you should draw attention to relevant developments that have taken place since then. The most important of these is the approval and the planned adoption on 27 September of WODC’s Local Plan 2031.

In the process of examining the draft Local Plan in 2017/18 the Inspector made some key recommendations that relate directly to the Woodstock Road site.

Key points related to the CALA development.

The Woodstock Road site is located within the Burford / Charlbury sub-area of West Oxfordshire and within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The Inspector’s comments for the Burford / Charlbury sub area can be found on page 54 of his report. See the link below.

Here’s a summary of the key points he makes:

The National Planning Policy Framework makes clear that great weight is to be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in AONBs. Major development within an AONB should be refused other than in exceptional circumstances.

Exceptional circumstances could be created by a clear housing need either within a sub area or on a District-wide basis. The Inspector noted:

WODC had commissioned a specialist report on housing (need) in the Burford / Charlbury sub-area and had drawn the conclusion that it identifies a housing need of 834 dwellings. The inspector disagreed, finding that neither the report, nor any other information, provided substantive evidence for any significant new housing need in the Burford / Charlbury sub-area.

He noted that completions and existing commitments in the Burford / Charlbury sub-area already amounted to 774 dwellings.

He considered whether there was a need within the wider District that required a contribution from the AONB. He concluded that it was unnecessary as ‘it is likely that the plan will provide for the delivery of the 2011-2031 housing requirement (15,950) and a rolling five-year supply of deliverable sites for housing.’

He concluded that WODC had not been able to show there was any substantial need for additional housing, that there was little case to provide more than the 774 dwellings in the pipeline and that the allocation of four specific housing sites (including the Woodstock Road site) in the Burford / Charlbury area would not be sound. As a result the authority could not claim that exceptional circumstances existed to override the considerable protection afforded to the AONB by the NPPF guidelines.

As a result WODC has removed the four previously allocated development sites within the AONB, including CALA’s Woodstock Road site, from their Local Plan.

WODC formally heard and refused CALA’s planning application on 1 May 2018.

CALA Appeal

You can read the full details of WODCs refusal of CALA’s application and their appeal document on the WODC planning website under the original application number – 17/01670/FUL. In the DOCUMENTS folder look for REFUSAL – FULL APPLICATION and SOC which stands for Statement of Case which is CALA’s appeal. Here’s the link:

CALA’s appeal is based upon four key headings. They are:

  1. The principle of residential development at Stonesfield
  2. Whether there are exceptional circumstances which justify major development within the AONB and whether it would be in the public interest
  3. Planning obligations (Reason for refusal no.2)
  4. The overall planning balance

Of these four headings, point number 2 is key. If the application does not meet that test then consideration of the rest is unnecessary.

WODC’s letter refusing planning permission cites a number of reasons, for instance housing density, landscaping, integration and various policies. However, SUSTO believes by far the most important sentence is as follows:
It has not been demonstrated that there is a need to develop this site in the AONB and exceptional circumstances have not been demonstrated to permit this major development under the terms of paragraph 116 of the NPPF.

WODC has buried this important reason for refusal. If you believe that the AONB is the most important issue, consideration of the rest is redundant. For that reason our model letter focuses upon the one key issue of whether or not there is compliance with NPPF guidelines related to development in the AONB.

We thank you for writing letters of objection back in 2017, even turning up to demonstrate when the Planners visited the site. We knew that CALA would appeal, so we hope people will write again to the Planning Inspectorate before the 11 October deadline to ensure the strongest representation from the village against this unnecessary and unwanted development – we can still win this.

Richard Morris
Sustainable Stonesfield