Last-minute update delays plans for 530 homes near Bicester

More questions than answers as last-ditch update delays 530-home plan near Bicester
More questions than answers as last-ditch update delays 530-home plan near Bicester. Image: Elmsbrook at north west Bicester

A decision on plans for 530 homes north west of Bicester has been delayed after 34 pages of extra information landed in front of councillors hours before a planning meeting.

The planning committee at Cherwell District Council overwhelmingly backed the call of local member Councillor Lynn Pratt (Con, Bicester North & Caversfield) to defer the decision on an application that “raises more questions than answers”.

Firethorn Developments wishes to build 530 new homes, from one-bed apartments to five-bedroom detached houses, on 24 hectares of land allocated for housing north of Bicester, between Bucknell and Caversfield.

The current application is for outline consent to cover matters such as provision for open space, access, drainage, demolition, earthworks and engineering operations.

Details about appearance, landscaping, layout and scale would come forward at a later date.

Pre-application discussions between the developer and planning professionals at the council started more than three years ago, and councillors were recommended to approve the application, even after the chunky update was published.

More than 200 objections had already been raised by individuals and residents’ groups, including Elmsbrook Traffic & Parking Group and Gagle Brook Primary School, Bicester.

It is argued Bicester is already too built up and that schools, medical provision and youth facilities would not cope.

Traffic, parking and issues relating to wildlife, pollution and drainage were also raised.

In the update, Bucknell Parish Council argued it would cross its boundary and “erode the rural character of Bucknell”, while Thames Water indicated that “upgrades will be needed” to the water network to serve any more than 49 homes on the site.

There were further representations from residents and responses from Cherwell and Oxfordshire councils regarding highways issues.

Firethorn and its legal advisers addressed areas “that they consider require clarification” from the initial council report, including parameter plans that they updated on 16 December 2022.

Councillor Pratt said: “Members will have seen that there were 34 pages of extra documentation submitted at lunchtime today.

“I am concerned that members may not have had time to read the extra papers before the meeting. I also feel the application, as it stands, raises more questions than answers.

“There is more paperwork in the extra bit than we normally get with an original application, so I am disappointed that this extra information could not be included with the original agenda.

“I would also point out that the applicant states it would not be feasible to make a detailed application at this stage. I would therefore request that this item is deferred until that extra information can be incorporated within the agenda in a timely manner and for the applicant to perhaps submit a full application.”

There were 15 votes for the delay. Councillor John Broad (Ind, Bicester West) voted against it, while planning chair Councillor George Reynolds (Con, Cropredy, Sibfords & Wroxton) abstained.

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