How we did it: Securing a housing site in a village plan

Detailed homes proposals have been drawn up along with a community vision for an Oxfordshire village. Jonathan Tilley reports.

Miller Homes planning manager Rob Collett, Janet Manning of Drayton 2020, Drayton Parish Council chair Richard Williams, Martin Hawthorne, Chris Weston, parish clerk David Perrow & Sir Tom Shebbeare. Photo: Julian Dodd
Miller Homes planning manager Rob Collett, Janet Manning of Drayton 2020, Drayton Parish Council chair Richard Williams, Martin Hawthorne, Chris Weston, parish clerk David Perrow & Sir Tom Shebbeare. Photo: Julian Dodd

Project: Drayton Neighbourhood Development Plan

Organisations involved: Drayton 2020, Drayton Parish Council, Drayton Community Trust, WYG, Miller Homes, Vale of White Horse District Council, Oxfordshire County Council

In June, developer Miller Homes secured a resolution from Vale of White Horse District Council to grant permission for 73 homes and community facilities on land allocated in a newly approved neighbourhood development plan (NDP) for the village of Drayton, near Abingdon.

Five years ago Martin Hawthorne, a director at the Southampton office of planning consultancy WYG, which advised Miller, gave a presentation to Drayton Parish Council proposing to bring forward fields on the village’s eastern fringe for homes and a football pitch. After talks with the parish council, WYG looked at an alternative site on the village’s northern boundary.

In 2012, Miller Homes signed an agreement with the landowner to seek permission for this site. Detailed plans were drawn up alongside work to secure an allocation in the NDP, on which work was then beginning. This work was taking place in the context of a shortfall in Vale of White Horse District Council’s five-year housing land supply, which villagers feared could lead to 600 new homes being imposed on top of Drayton’s total of about 1,000.

"We seized the neighbourhood plan option as a way out of our housing growth dilemma," says Sir Tom Shebbeare of Drayton 2020, the partnership between the parish council and Drayton Community Trust that led preparation of the NDP. "It’s been a long process, but there is no-one who thinks that the NDP wasn’t a more satisfactory way of making decisions."

Work on the NDP began in 2012. To establish preferred sites, Drayton 2020 and the parish council carried out a thorough analysis of potential locations in and around the village. Initially, 14 sites were considered and rated. Apart from Miller’s, two other sites with capacity for 50 and 140 homes were proposed for allocation. The NDP was passed after an examination last September and endorsed by villagers at a referendum this March, with just under 91 per cent of votes in favour.

Key issues affecting the Miller Homes site included highways and landscape impacts, parking, design and layout, ecology, drainage and archaeology. Hawthorne says all these issues were successfully addressed, with no objections received from statutory consultees on the planning application.

Another key concern in preparing the application was the scheme’s perceived impact on neighbours’ amenity, in particular from the proximity of new homes on one corner of the site. "We had proposed to put housing there, but because the neighbourhood group wanted open space we moved it elsewhere on the site," Hawthorne explains. Meanwhile, Vale of White Horse planners asked for an increase in the number of two- and three-bedroom units. In response, the plans were amended to subdivide some of the larger plots.

WYG and Miller Homes showed the draft plans at an exhibition in June 2014 and representatives from the other sites allocated in the draft NDP also attended. WYG then exhibited the detailed application proposals this March. According to Hawthorne, the relationship with the community was positive throughout. "The neighbourhood planning group was very enthusiastic and open to building a positive rapport," he says.

Miller Homes Southern regional operations director Chris Weston agrees that Drayton 2020’s willingness to engage with developers, and its understanding of the development process as well as local needs and aspirations, has greatly assisted the application process. "Engagement helped secure support for the development from officers, the parish council and the planning committee," he says.

Weston admits that the company was initially concerned that communities might see NDPs as a mechanism for restricting growth. "However, Drayton 2020 clearly understood the benefits of the NDP process in ensuring that development allows communities to deliver not only much-needed housing but also additional benefits," he says.

The approved scheme will provide two-, three- and four-bedroom dwellings, of which 40 per cent will be affordable, along with three football pitches, a cricket pitch and pavilion, a car park, a children’s play area, informal open space and a footpath link to the local primary school. Financial contributions will be made towards local community projects and infrastructure, including highways improvements.

Now that the planning situation has been resolved, further announcements are awaited on the start date for construction. Shebbeare says: "The result is a high-quality residential development incorporating community assets that this village will treasure for the next century."

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