The Planning Inspector's report has just been released and the Core Strategy has been found sound. On first reading it is gloomy stuff and there is little to suggest that the inspector's have taken on board the evidence and arguments they heard. There appear to be some basic factual errors and we will need to read it and discuss it in some detail before we decide on out next actions. (See the bottom of this page for pdf and word versions of the report).
About the only positive paragraph for us is the one below:
"4.24 In order to make the Core Strategy sound, the following change should be made: The deletion of the third and fourth sentences of Policy CS4 and their replacement by: “The Northern Gateway AAP will consider small scale, minor changes to the Green Belt boundary in the immediate vicinity of the currently safeguarded land, where this may be necessary to achieve a suitable and appropriate site for development. Land here will only be released from the Green Belt if exceptional circumstances are shown to exist and all the following criteria are met …… ."
We'll update this page as soon as we have more information and we're sorry that our Council and the Planning Inspectorate have seen fit to release news like this so close to Christmas - we presume that is deliberate 'news management'.
The key paragraphs in the report for the Northern Gateway seem to be:
31. Proposals for a new employment-led development at the Northern Gateway
remain as contentious as ever, since the previous hearing sessions closed.
In its FPCs, the Council intends to set a maximum ceiling for the amount of
Class B floorspace, limited to 20,000 m2 up to 2016 and 55,000 m2 by
2026. This would ensure that the homes:jobs balance does not worsen,
and preferably improves during the current plan period, and ensure that
the delivery of employment uses does not run ahead of housing delivery.
In order to further improve the homes:jobs balance, the overall amount of
housing is to be set at the upper end of the range previously specified (i.e.
200 dwellings). However, at the hearing sessions, the Council accepted that
further development could take place after 2026, up to a maximum of
80,000 m2 of business floorspace. The Council reconfirms that a detailed
AAP will establish the precise nature, mix, scale, location and phasing of
land-uses at the Northern Gateway. The Northern Gateway represents
some of the last remaining greenfield land within the city boundary suitable
for new employment-led development. We consider it is important that
such land is not used up for other types of development, except where
they are complementary and necessary to secure the overall viability and
delivery of the project.
32. At the resumed hearings, NGC put forward a slightly revised package,
with a limit of 55,000 m2 of business uses, 500 dwellings and a range of
complementary land uses, including a new primary school. However,
we consider the elements of the scheme set out in revised Policy CS6
suggested by the Council provide a more appropriate scope and mix of
land-uses, which will be determined in more detail by the subsequent AAP.
The fact that neither the full details of the required infrastructure, nor the
sources of funding to deliver them, have been resolved in detail does not
render the policy, its proposals or priorities unsound. At this unusual point
in time, with an absence of clarity over the availability of public funding,
we find that the CS provides an appropriate framework for more detailed
proposals at the Northern Gateway to be taken forward when required.
33. As for phasing of the development, this would ensure that employment
development does not run ahead of housing provision, and recognise that
completion of any part of the new development would be unlikely much
before 2016, with all the necessary preparation and mitigation work. The
precise limits on business floorspace seem reasonable, but much would
depend on resolving the constraints to development and mitigating
environmental and traffic issues, as well as economic conditions. The key
to bringing the site forward will be the resolution of the considerable traffic
implications arising from the proposed development. This may be
compounded by recent financial cuts in the Access to Oxford initiative,
along with the traffic implications of the Water Eaton parkway station.
We therefore consider it is vital that any policy for the Northern Gateway
recognises that the development is dependent upon securing of measures
designed to mitigate the impact on the local and strategic road networks,
acceptable to both the Highways Agency and Highways Authority and their
implementation prior to the occupation of the development. Accordingly,
we reiterate our recommendation to add this clause to Policy CS6.
34. In addition, we urge the Council to fully consult and engage with the local
community, organisations and other stakeholders when drawing up
the detailed proposals for the Northern Gateway. This will ensure that
some of the distrust, mis-information, confusion and uncertainty about
these proposals that typified some of the hearing sessions will not be
repeated when the subsequent AAP is examined.
35. We also conclude that the intended revocation of the RSS would not have
any serious implications for the Northern Gateway proposals, which are
independently justified in the evidence base accompanying the CS."