Author Archives: adminimport

Tonight’s Development Forum

(From my Facebook post)

I’ve been preparing for tonight’s Development Forum, starring Doric and Mace, Vale Planners, West Way Community Concern and various local councillors.

No one is quite sure what to expect, so we’re coming with questions AND statements.

The Vale has a new procedure, designed to bring developers and community stakeholders together at the pre-application stage of major projects. I think that’s a VERY good idea, and if we’d done this in early 2013, it might have saved us some of this pain.

But it’s being launched on a project that is well past pre-application stage — actually nearing determination, and arguably too late to change anything. Additionally, invitees include members of the Planning Committee!

Irregular, puzzling and I’m prepared to listen, or to speak, whatever seems appropriate.

Untenable development

(From my Facebook post this morning)

I’m afraid that if this Doric plan goes through, Botley will end up with an economically, socially and environmentally untenable shopping area.

Shopping habits are changing– superstores facing demise.

The Carbuncle award (horrible architectural design) went to a superstore wrapped up by flats.

Positing a need for student housing in Botley and making a false case about numbers of students living in ‘family homes’ is disingenuous.

Doric proposes a dodgy deal for Botley and I fear the consequences if it’s allowed to go ahead.


New Blog format

I’m not liking it, but willing to give ALDC a few days to see if it will come back to a usable state. Right now, when you come to my blog, you don’t see my posts straight away. Scroll down….

What’s different about this Local Plan consultation?

The final working draft of the Vale’s Local Plan 2031 Pt 1 is published ( and scroll down to item 5). It’s being tidied up in preparation for submission to the Sec of State for approval. Before it’s submitted, there’s one more consultation. It’s a little bit different to other consultations.

For THIS consultation, comments are sent to the examining inspector associated with the Secretary of State, rather than to the local council. There’s a six week consultation and then a several months long examination before approval. Or non-approval. (I don’t know how that works. )

For THIS consultation, no substantive changes to the Local Plan 2031 Pt 1 are allowed after. Essentially, the Vale administration are publishing a Local Plan they are happy to live with and take forward for adoption. (Not including typos and any sort of unclear wording of course.)

So far, I have two main areas of concern

  1. Changes to the boundaries of the Oxford Green Belt that fall within the Vale. (I think there should be a collabortive, joined up review by all authorities who have Oxford Green Belt land within their boundaries.)
  2. Designation of Botley as a ‘district centre in the context of Oxford city’. I don’t know what this means, and no one has thus far answered my question about it. (But I have a suspicion it has to do with justification for the proposed student housing, which does nothing to help the people of Botley or the Vale.)

At this point, I’m not supportive of the Tories’s Local Plan 2013 Pt 1.

Cumnor Green Belt still under threat

Last night I attended my second briefing on the new draft of the Vale of White Horse Local Plan 2031 Part 1.

My previous enthusiasm that the Cumnor site had been saved is now diminished.

It HAS been saved from immediate, large-scale development — it’s been removed from Local Plan’s ‘strategic’ sites list. (Stragetic sites are where 200 or more houses are planned.)

But the Local Plan still would still remove the site from the Green Belt, which would make it available for development, either by a speculative planning application being registered, or from it being included in the smaller housing sites proposed in Local Plan Part 2 (in about 2 years’ time).

I’m against piecemeal nibbling away at the Green Belt. I think all authorities with Oxford Green Belt land within their boundaries should work together on a comprehensive review so that decisions are consistent and for everyone. It’s worth noting that, by legislation, the Green Belt can only be built on in ‘exceptional’ circumstances, and housing need is explicitly not an exceptional circumstance. The only way the Tories can build on Green Belt Land is to take the land out of the Green Belt so that it loses its protection.

So far, I’m not inclined to support the Tories’ Local Plan 2031 Pt1.





Cumnor Green Belt Saved

I just came from an Opposition briefing on the Local Plan 2013.

The Tories have REMOVED Cumnor South housing site from the Local Plan. This was a proposed site for some 200 homes. (This is the site south of the cricket fields.) But it is no longer in the Local Plan.

We petitioned and campaigned on this, and it has worked! I’m thrilled. That portion of the Oxford Green Belt has been saved!! Brilliant.



Student Management Plan (doc)

In their amendments, Doric refer to a Student Management Plan. No such document was submitted. An intrepid local resident chased this with the Vale, and we had a copy emailed to us yesterday. (It should be up on the Vale website today.)

Why not have a look: Student Management Plan- Botley v5 JP 050914_1

If you see the name of a company you’ve never heard of, why not Google them, and then share what you find? If you see a missing name, why not make up your own?

I would have expected something as important as this to be complete, spell checked, and relevant to the site they are proposing to develop.


Doric questions I asked today

I sent a slew of questions off to Stuart Walker in the past 48 hours (and he’s answered). So I want to share them here.

Question: There is a tree survey report included in these new amendments. But it only surveys the trees located in the back gardens of residents in Arthray Road. None on the site itself are included here, so all the TPOs are missed out. A previous tree survey was submitted with the original plans. But it didn’t consider the TPOs either. How are TPOs handled for this planning application then?

Answer: The tree survey is an additional statement to address concerns we had with trees in back gardens on properties on Arthray Road.  The TPO trees will be assessed by Tim Stringer who will be responding to the application in due course.


Question: In their ES Addendum (6.5 p 118), Doric tell how they plan to use West Way House as the construction offices plus other facilities.Now that the offices at West Way House are to be converted to flats, it’s not clear to me how that will work. Of course, if the planned development work to convert that disused space into flats doesn’t proceed, there’s no problem once Doric have acquired that property. But if the flats are occupied, then what will happen?

Answer: I understand the flats will not proceed if permission is granted for the redevelopment.


Question: Please can you help us understand why Doric have included the Rushden decision docs in their planning application? We don’t understand the relevance of that decision to this application.

Answer: Doric has included this appeal decision which has been picked up nationally in planning as a key case in how to assess / interpret retail impact with regard to the National Planning Policy Framework.


Question: It’s my understanding that student housing will generate no council tax for the Vale, county or parish. Is that correct? How, then, do we pay for the services they require? Is it all done via section 106 up front? Or is there another way that I don’t know about?

This 550 dwelling proposal may bring 600-700 people (a total guess, with married students resident in some units), a figure which swells the population of North Hinksey by something like 10%.

Without council tax to pay for it all, how do we handle, police, rubbish, roads, public transport, doctor, dentist, recreational amenties, and all the other things required by such a group?

Answer: I do not know the answer as to whether they pay council tax or not, but the upshot is, if not, the management company will be tasked with bin collection etc often paid via service charges.  The accommodation is proposed to be single occupancy and any other impact on services such as police etc may be captured financially in a S106.


Question: Could you or one of your team please point me to the application doc or docs that explain the approach and details for accessibility for the disabled. I had a letter last week from a resident in a large motorised wheelchair who gets around with assistance from her guide dog. She can’t see anywhere that she will be able to access the shops and services, and is very concerned.  I’d like to see what provision Doric have given to her needs and others like her.

Answer: This is an issue we have been looking at very closely and I have met with the Vale’s disability action group in the summer where we interrogated the plans to ensure they worked for scooters and wheel chairs etc.  The general approach is detailed in the design and access statements.  In respect of the amendments there are new lifts to the plaza level from the corner opposite Barclays, and another lift at the Library end of the development. There are also travelators in the atrium to the supermarket.  Ultimately the development will need to comply with current building regulations (separate from planning) which ensure access for all abilities is achieved.

I asked for clarification: Is there a way for a disabled motorised wheel chair user and her dog (and maybe their attendant?) to exit their van in the disabled car park and access the shops? Everything seems to be located on the West Way side of the centre, but I thought the car park was on the south side and underground?

His clarification: Yes.  There [are] lifts from the car park and the travelators in the atrium to the supermarket to allow for such access.

Doric’s reply to a similar question I posted on MY Facebook page (there’s no way to ask a question on THEIR FB page): Convenient access was considered throughout the design of the proposals with provisions made for people of all abilities. Any detailed design stage would further look into the needs of visitors including those with accessibility needs however our Transport Assessment and Design and Access statement provide information at this outline stage. To specifically answer the query you mention, the ramp and stair access are DDA compliant and disabled parking bays will be provided by the main store atrium where escalators and lifts will be available.

Which sent me back to Stuart Walker to ask: Doric consider this an outline stage. I’ve been under the impression that this IS the full detailed desgin, and that we aren’t simply at outline stage. Have I misunderstood?

Answer: This is a FULL application – I guess Doric are referring to when construction drawings are produced post planning.


One more question (Stuart will be away on hols from eob on 19th Sep until the 6th of Oct): Many questions are coming in from the public now that we are about halfway through this third consultation. My approach has been to send them on to you for clarification or direction, then provide the information I get from you to the public.

Who should I contact while you’re away please?

We often need to be pointed to where in the application docs the information is to be found. In cases where we highlight something that’s not contained in the current docs, we’d like to know what will be done (maybe it’s not relevant to planning determination, or, if it is, you will request this info from Doric).

Answer: I’m afraid there is no one specific who is dealing with this application in my absence, but please contact either Adrian [Duffield] or any member of the Vale DM (Development Management, or, essentially, Planning] team who will be happy to assist you where possible.
So, there we are as of today. If you have questions such as these, send them along and I’ll do my best to get an answer for you.



Doric’s SCI Addendum – not true

Today I filed a comment on the Vale’s planning page for West Way. My first draft was full of outraged adjectives and adverbs. I took a tea break and edited it so that this is the final version:

Doric’s claims in their recent SCI Addendum aren’t true.

Doric tell you that their website and Facebook page are used for public questions and answers, to engage in conversation with the community.

  • They say their Facebook page, “engages with members of the community to respond to their comments, questions and concerns”. That’s just not true. They don’t allow questions to be posted there.
  • They say their website “is now more user-friendly and provides the opportunity for users to … ask questions.” This isn’t true; I see nowhere for public questions and answers.

I went to both places yesterday specifically to ask about accessibility for the disabled, and there is no way to post a question in either place.

Since this SCI Addendum is part of their planning application, I assume there is some sort of requirement or expectation that Doric must meet?

  • What is that requirement regarding community engagement?
  • Is there something in our planning policy that addresses it?
  • What steps do the planning department take to actively check that the claims made by the applicant are indeed true?

This doc makes Doric sound like they are genuinely involving the community in their plans. That’s just not so. They won’t make public their consultation results. Their public events were cancelled and not re-scheduled. Repeated requests from several bodies for scale modelling of their plans are ignored. Reports they refer to aren’t published or provided when asked for. There’s no forum for asking questions and getting sincere answers.

Doric’s claims in the SCI Addendum aren’t true. They shouldn’t be included as evidence that some requirement has been met.

17 Sep 14