Case Study: 75 homes (change-of-use), West Oxfordshire District Council

Background

After 2 years of marketing land on the edge of Witney that had previously been consented for employment use (offices and a hotel), and failing to attract offers, our client required assistance for a change-of-use application to provide 75 new homes.  The District Council opposed the proposed change-of-use, considering the land ‘de facto employment land’ despite the lack of commercial interest.

Challenge

The District Council believed that since the land had previously been consented for employment use (albeit five years before), it should remain solely reserved for employment use.

Solution

  • SP Broadway undertook a campaign to explain the advantages of the change-of-use to key political stakeholders.  We gained a motion of support from the local Parish Council, which agreed that it ‘does not seem logical’ to retain the land for employment.  We also received the approval of the local ward member, who said the scheme was ‘easy to support’.
  • We sought input from the public regarding potential community facilities or projects that could be funded from developer contributions.
  • We initiated a ‘door to door’ neighbourhood petition aimed at informing residents about the advantages and feasibility of new homes.  The planning application included 40% affordable housing, improvements to public green spaces and children’s play areas, as well as the developer’s commitment to financially supporting a community-driven project.

Result

  • Although ward members were sympathetic to the change-of-use, the District Council’s officers refused the change-of-use application in March 2022 using delegated powers.
  • Our client appealed the delegated refusal, and the inspector allowed the appeal.  The inspector noted that the proposal ‘would support economic growth through direct and indirect jobs and investment’, agreed that there were no grounds for the District Council’s initial claim that the site was ‘de facto employment land’, and highlighted that the council could only demonstrate a 3.5 year housing supply.

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