In an article published in the Oxford Mail on 24 July 2014, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Banbury, Sean Woodcock, has criticised Cherwell’s lack of urgency in formulating a local plan, resulting in developers taking the lead, not enough homes being built and unsustainable developments allowed to go ahead.
Sean Woodcock says, “We are now seeing growth and development past what the previous local plan set out, and we feel that the district council’s failure on that has really had a massive impact on the district already.
But underlying the problems in the district is Chancellor George Osborne’s determination to force growth in order to cover up his failed management of the economy.
We think that Cherwell District Council has under delivered in terms of the number of houses it has been building for a number of years. Because so many people want to live in the area there needs to be housing growth.
We want to see more affordable housing and, because the district council has failed to provide it, they have let developers take the lead. We are now in a situation where the district council has been told by a government inspector that it needs to put more houses in Cherwell.
I think the district council is right to be protective of the Green Belt because it is fundamental, and should be protected across the country. We have to be very careful when making changes to it so that we don’t undermine why the Green Belt is there, which is to protect the boundaries between urban areas.
But we have to be flexible and willing to look at it and we need to make sure that we make up for any Green Belt, which is lost by protecting other areas.
We are flexible enough to say, ‘let’s have a look and see what the evidence is for making changes to the Green Belt’.
What we are seeing is the impact of the district council not building enough homes – the number of people on the housing waiting list is going up.
There is still a very long waiting list, but the council has cut it by making tweaks to the criteria.
And because we don’t have a local plan, we are seeing more housing, at a faster rate, but in the wrong places.
People in Banbury are now seeing the town grow in ways they never previously envisaged.
We believe that the administration is right to focus growth in and around Banbury and Bicester because they are the two areas where housing will be most sustainable, but there does need to be some housing in the villages around Cherwell because local communities need to grow.
Now that planning officers are again having to look at the number of houses they have to build, I don’t think they ever envisaged where such growth could go.
So we are going to go through quite an unpredictable couple of months.
And in the meantime developers will be able to speculate and put in plans for housing developments in places that are completely unsustainable.”