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Claim: ‘Draconian rules preventing firms from building homes’
THE boss of a housing developer behind major schemes in Oxford says it will no longer build in the city unless planning regulations are relaxed.
Andrew Saunders-Davies, chairman of Berkeley Homes Oxford & Chiltern, said regulations including the need for half of properties to be affordable homes and a 15 per cent tax on the value of the development are “draconian” and are preventing it from building in the city boundaries.
But Oxford City Council officials said the rules were there because of the need for affordable homes.
Mr Saunders-Davies added: “We are not currently doing anything in Oxford, even though we would like to. It’s an incredibly difficult environment to work in.
“The amount of development in the city is very low due to a combination of policies that have led to a drying up of opportunities that developers are prepared to take up.
“These are very draconian planning policies which we have consistently objected.
“We want them to take a more realistic approach.
“Other parts of Oxfordshire, such as the Vale and Cherwell, are more realistic.”
Under planning rules, if the development is for more than 10 houses, half of them built must be affordable housing. But if they are for between four and nine homes, developers have to pay the council a 15 per cent tax on the value of the development. Other conditions include controls over the type of dwelling and a new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) of £100 per square metre.
Mr Saunders-Davies’s views have been echoed by a number of other developers, including Keble Homes and Thomas Homes which have also decided not to take on any new projects in the city.
Ollie McGovern, managing director of Keble Homes which built the eight Barclay House apartments on Cutteslowe Roundabout, said: “The CIL is not unreasonable and most people could tolerate that, but the big kicker is the 15 per cent tax on the value of the site.”
“These two things combined make it non viable.
“Oxford city is no different to any other area in terms of its need for affordable homes but these policies minimise the number of developers who develop sites here.”
Chris Brotherton of Thomas Homes added: “They have brought in all these policies as ways of stopping development, rather than looking at creative ways to encourage it”
But Mark Jaggard, spatial and economic development manager at Oxford City Council, said there were plenty of builders prepared to abide by the regulations.
Speaking of the planned 885-home Barton West estate, Mr Jaggard said the affordable ratio had been lowered to 40 per cent to take into account the £16.6m that needed to be spent on infrastructure.
He added: “We have the most unaffordable city anywhere outside London. Not only is this pricing people out from a social point of view, if you speak to businesses across Oxford, they say there are real recruitment problems because people look at the cost of housing and can’t find affordable accommodation.
“We have to provide affordable homes in Oxford.”
THERE are variations, depending on area and number of homes, but generally:
- South Oxfordshire planning policy is mainly 40 per cent affordable housing
- Cherwell’s policy on Banbury and Bicester developments of 10 or more dwellings is 30 per cent affordable homes but Kidlington and elsewhere in the district is 35 per cent
- The Vale of White Horse policy is 40 per cent affordable housing
- West Oxon policy is 30 per cent affordable housing on bigger sites, like Madley Park in Witney and Carterton, and up to 50 per cent in the remainder of the district
- On unallocated land, known as ‘windfall sites’, it may ask for up to 50 per cent in Witney, Carterton, Chipping Norton and Eynsham.
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