These are important times for the residents of Watlington Parish after four years of intensive work in preparing our Watlington Neighbourhood Development Plan (WNDP) which has successfully now passed through Referendum with an 81% YES vote and SODC have until August 24th to "make and adopt" the WNDP as the latest document forming part of the Local Development Scheme (Development Plan) - in fact the WNDP should receive Cabinet recommendation on August 14th with Full Council acceptance on August 23rd
Read the press release from John Howell MP - John has also welcomed the dismissal of two planning appeals in July in support of Neighbourhood Plans in Sonning Common and Benson
A big vote of thanks to the dozens of people who helped in all respects - without their help we may not be in the position of strength that we have established
The campaign was based on explanatory leaflets which were distributed within the civil parish of Watlington - which is the WNDP area
As questions have been raised about the Neighbourhood Plan we have done our best to answer them:
Q. Would voting ‘Yes’ at the referendum mean that unrestricted development would be allowed in Watlington?
A. Definitely not. The whole purpose of the Plan is to decide where major development should go. The NP allocates the three sites for development that Watlington has decided are the best ones for new homes. These are Sites A, B and C and were supported by 86% of the people who completed questionnaires at the last local consultation on the Plan
Q. Would voting ‘No’ mean that Watlington would be protected from large scale development?
A. Quite the opposite. If Watlington doesn’t have a Neighbourhood Plan, there would be no locally agreed planning policies to assess proposals for development. Planning applications could be made anywhere around the town. As SODC does not have an up to date Local Plan, and will not have one for a long time, it could be a ‘free for all’ for developers. Unplanned development in Chinnor and Benson shows what can happen when neighbourhood plans are not in place. Both these villages are ending up with new homes on many more sites than their communities want. Although Chinnor now has a neighbourhood plan and Benson has a referendum on the same day as Watlington’s, they have come too late to save them from unwanted development
Q. Why is there reference to a requirement for the provision of a minimum of 260 new homes in Watlington?
A. SODC has set a target of 260 new homes for Watlington over the next 15 years as part of its emerging Local Plan. This figure is based on a share of the overall requirement for Oxfordshire, imposed by central government, and local need. The number comes from the initial allocation of 79 new homes to Watlington, plus an additional 15% of the existing number of homes in the parish. At least this number of homes will be built here with or without a Neighbourhood Plan. By voting YES to the Neighbourhood Plan Watlington will have a say in where the development takes place
Q. Would the Neighbourhood Plan remove protection for the countryside around Watlington?
A. Of course not. Local people have made it clear from the very first consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan that they love the rural setting of Watlington and want it to be protected. The Plan has very clear policies for the conservation of the natural environment and each of the sites allocated for development is expected to ensure that the proposals for development are appropriate for their location within the setting of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Q. How can we be sure that the new edge road will be built? It has been talked about for years and nothing has ever happened.
A. The Neighbourhood Plan is the best chance for years that a new road around Watlington can be provided. It would be great to be able to guarantee that the road will definitely be built and that it will be built before any of the new houses. The Neighbourhood Plan can’t do that but it does require land for the road to be safeguarded on the sites which have been allocated for development. If there is a majority ‘Yes’ vote at the referendum, Watlington will have a very strong case to move forward with proposals for the road. SODC and OCC both have proposals for highways infrastructure which include the road and are in discussions with all the developers to agree on how it will be delivered and paid for. Decisions have not been made yet but all the parties involved are working towards a positive outcome
Q. How do decisions about the development of Chalgrove Airfield affect Watlington?
A. When we first had discussions with Homes England (HE), the Government agency which is responsible for development proposals at the airfield, the edge road for Watlington was one of a number of infrastructure improvements in the area which were proposed. Traffic analysis commissioned by HE demonstrated that Watlington needs an edge road whether Chalgrove airfield is developed or not. HE has indicated that it will contribute to the cost of the new road. Whether funding from the Government comes from HE or other sources there are good reasons to expect that the balance between the overall cost and the contributions from developers will be met. Discussions are ongoing and are moving in the right direction
Q. If we vote ‘Yes’ for the Neighbourhood Plan, how can we be sure that enough funding will be provided to build the new edge road?
A. The Neighbourhood Plan cannot provide a guarantee that the new road will be fully funded. What it can do is provide the means to move the negotiations forward. The majority of the cost will be met by the developers of the sites where land is safeguarded for the route. The balance will need to be met from other sources which are likely to include funding from the Government and from the Community Infrastructure Levy which developers have to pay to SODC and OCC
The OCC response to the MOD Site application and their positive comments regarding the Edge Road proposal can be read here
Q. How can the new edge road be provided if the Highways Authority does not support it?
A. The Highways Authority, Oxfordshire County Council, is not against the edge road but needs to make sure that proportionate costs are met by developers and that local taxpayers are not left with a hefty bill. OCC has been actively involved in proposals for the road and has had several meetings with the developers and Homes England about it. A draft specification for the road has been agreed and an initial cost analysis has been made. The next stage is to agree a Memorandum of Understanding between the developers and the County Council and this is currently being drawn up. The County Council is also making sure that provision for the road is made when planning applications for sites along the route come forward
Q. What will happen if the sites allocated in the Neighbourhood Plan are developed without the road being built?
A. The cumulative impact on air pollution in Watlington would be too great if all three sites are developed before the road is completed. SODC and OCC have already indicated that the road is required for the level of growth expected to be provided in Watlington and along the B4009 corridor. OCC is making sure that provision for the road is made when planning applications along the route come forward. SODC and OCC have a legal responsibility to reduce air pollution in Watlington to EU and UK standards so planning applications cannot be approved which would make air quality worse
WatYES as a group is properly constituted and has Articles of Association, Public Liability Insurance and a bank account. Members of the Group are all acting as individuals and not as members of the parish council or any other group or organisation
The officers are:
TONY POWELL- CHAIRMAN
Tony lives in Hill Road
GILL BINDOFF - SECRETARY
Gill lives in Brook Street
JANE SLEMECK- TREASURER
Jane has recently moved to the Lilacs Place after having lived for many years in Hill Road