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Monday, 12 November 2012 13:03

Fewcott wind turbines application

In November 2008, Bolstertone plc announced a proposal to build a £10m wind farm on farmland between Fewcott and Fritwell, near Bicester, consisting of four 125 metre (400 feet) turbines, a control building and access, adjacent to the M40, close to Cherwell Valley Services.

Bolsterstone considers Fewcott to be a good location, claiming that it has good wind speed, no problems with aviation or communications links, is close to a grid connection, is an accessible site, not in a designated protected area, and there would be limited visual impact.

We opposed the proposal, arguing that not only would it be an unacceptable blight on the surrounding countryside, but wind speeds are too low for the turbines to produce enough electricity to justify the damage caused. In January 2009, we submitted our comments to Cherwell District Council on Bolsterstone's planning application, calling for it to be refused.

In April 2009, Cherwell District Council’s planning committee voted unanimously against its own officer's recommendation, and refused approval.

In November 2009, Bolsterstone appealed the decision and it went to a Public Inquiry in the spring of 2010. We were represented at the Public Inquiry, where we made our case against the proposed wind farm.

In July 2010, however, the planning inspector gave the go-ahead to the wind farm. He acknowledged that there would be a degree of harm caused to the landscape, the built environment and local villages, but concluded that this would be outweighed by the benefits.

Both we and local campaigners were extremely disappointed at the outcome. We see this as a major test of policy on wind turbines in Oxfordshire and are extremely concerned it will pave the way for other large turbines in the open countryside, and a flood of similar applications up and down the M40.

Unfortunately, the only way forward now would be to take this to the High Court, which is an expensive route to take, especially for a charity like CPRE and the other objectors, when there is no guarantee of success.

Published in News archive
Thursday, 08 November 2012 11:14

Village green preservation: a change in the law

A Village Green or Town Green is, to most of us, a green, open or undeveloped space within a settlement.

Published in News archive
Monday, 01 October 2012 10:53

Neighbourhood plans

The Localism Act, which came into force in November 2011, introduced provisions for neighbourhood planning. But what’s it all about and what does it mean for communities in Oxfordshire?

There are three main elements to neighbourhood planning:

1 Neighbourhood Development Plans – these are very localised versions of Local Plans and will include polices on the development and use of land.
2 Neighbourhood Development Orders (NDOs) – these can grant planning permission for a certain type of development, in a certain area. The permission can be unconditional or subject to approval by the relevant planning authority, which in this case could be the parish council.
3 Community Right to Build Orders – these are a special type of NDO that can be prepared by a community organisation. They will grant planning permission for a specified development in relation to a specified site.

What is a 'neighbourhood' and who is responsible for neighbourhood planning?

Neighbourhood plans can only be prepared by the relevant town or parish council or, where neither of these exists, a ‘neighbourhood forum’ designated by the local planning authority. Once a plan is drawn up, it must be submitted to the local planning authority to ensure it complies with regulations. It is then put forward for Independent Examination by the Planning Inspectorate. Finally, the plans must be approved by more than 50% of those voting in a local referendum. Presuming it gets through all these stages, the local authority must adopt it as part of the local development plan.

Who pays?

The local planning authority must pay for the Independent Examination, the referendum and any administration associated with processing the plan.
However, the costs of developing the plan itself have to be met by the parish or town council, or neighbourhood forum.

The opportunities & challenges

Theoretically, this puts decision-making back into the hands of local people. Neighbourhood plans could bring communities together around a positive vision for their area and a clear plan for sustainable development. If it works as the Government hopes, these plans will feed strongly into Local Plans.
But things are never as simple as they seem!

Firstly, neighbourhood plans will have to conform with the strategic elements of the Local Plan, including housing and economic development requirements. In turn, Local Plans have to be in conformity with the National Planning Policy Framework So, it seems it will be OK for local communities to say ‘yes’ to development, but ‘no’ is still not a valid response.

Secondly, neighbourhood planning could cost local communities a great deal, both in terms of time and money, with figures of anywhere between £17,000 and £70,000 being thrown around. Advice and support from external consultants can quickly push costs up.

So, while preparing these plans might prove a useful exercise, expectations must be realistic about the work involved and the degree to which communities can set their own agenda.

Local planning authorities will have an important role to play in this as they will need to support communities through the process. However, with scarce resources, it is not clear how planning departments will cope with any significant influx of plans, especially when their priority may be on getting Core Strategies in place within the 12 month deadline set by the National Planning Policy Framework.

What’s happening in Oxfordshire in 2012

To encourage take up of neighbourhood plans, the Government has identified a number of Front Runners to receive grant funding of £20,000. In Oxfordshire these are: Banbury, Chipping Norton, Faringdon, Thame, Woodcote and Wroxton.

Geoff Botting, Vice- Chair, Woodcote Parish Council says: "My advice for communities without planners on tap is to organise the project, to build expertise and evidence, and include the community from Day One."

Hilary Sherman, Deputy Town Clerk of Faringdon Town Council says: "Early on we took the view that the plan should be driven by the townspeople as a whole rather than merely ‘consulting’ with them. This has been remarkably successful."

Astrid Harvey, who is working to support the Chipping Norton Neighbourhood Plan, says: “Building momentum and sustaining enthusiasm in the town for the Neighbourhood Plan is challenging. We are very grateful to the 400 households who completed a residents' questionnaire, and to those who attended our workshops and focus groups. What they told us is helping to build a clear picture of the sort of town we need to plan for."

Published in News archive
Monday, 29 October 2012 13:35

Organised chaos: a change of planning

We had hoped that the changes in planning policy announced earlier this year would have had time by now to bed in, and that we would be able to assess their impacts, both good and bad.

Published in News archive

Spare a thought for Kingston Bagpuize with Southmoor which has been overwhelmed with planning applications to build more than 300 new homes. Villagers say they simply don't have the infrastructure to cope with such a huge increase in population.

Published in News archive

We have written to the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, to ask him to rethink a decision to build a retirement village and care home near Wallingford which was approved by South Oxfordshire District Council’s (SODC) Planning Committee last week.

Published in News archive

Hot on the heels of the application to erect a wind turbine at Henton we are now faced with an even bigger single turbine proposed at Ford, just over the Oxfordshire border in Buckinghamshire. And we don't want that one either!

Published in News archive
Monday, 08 October 2012 13:36

Wind turbine at Henton? No thanks.

Henton, near Chinnor in South Oxfordshire could be the site of a 90 foot high wind turbine if developers have their way. They have submitted a planning application to erect the structure at Rowan Farm, Henton.

Published in News archive

2 October 2012

Oxford City Council needs to respect the wishes of local residents and protect both allotments and the green space at East Minchery Farm.

Published in News archive

27 September 2012

CPRE Oxford is speaking up for a number of local green spaces at the Examination in Public of the City's Sites & Housing Development Plan Document.

At East Minchery Farm, CPRE supported the local residents’ desire to see part of the space returned to allotments, and the rest used for recreation. The Inspector agreed that 'further consideration should be given to the retention of the allotments'. She also said that 'community aspirations for the use of the required 25% open space on this land should be more positively expressed in the supporting text'. The City Council is arguing that any communal food-growing should be part of the 25% open space but CPRE believes that the allotments should be in addition to this area.

On the Horspath site, located within the Green Belt, the Inspector listened to our arguments and those of local residents. She agreed that the site should not include reference to a potential wind turbine or renewal energy project.

The Inspector found that: 'The suitability of this site for allocation for wind turbines or any other form of renewable energy facility is not supported by robust evidence. Furthermore the siting of such development is not clearly compatible with the primary intended use of the site for the relocation of sports facilities.' (The Council had suggested that a turbine could be turned off whenever a match took place!)

The Inspector agreed that any built development associated with the sports and club uses must be located on the non-Green Belt area of the land.

CPRE has also spoken against the allocation of the site at St Frideswide and a number of other community green spaces around the District.

Watch this space for further developments.

 

Published in News archive
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