Draft Local Plan October 2012

Existing Housing

5.34 Opportunities to provide sustainable new housing can be constrained, especially outside the towns, so it is important to protect the existing housing stock and its character at the same time as accommodating sympathetic change to meet residents' needs through adaption. Alterations, extensions and sub-division of existing housing remain a significant source of new homes.

5.35 In some instances, existing dwellings may come under pressure for redevelopment to alternative uses. In such cases the loss of a dwelling will only be supported where there is an overriding community benefit and/or the existing living accommodation is unsatisfactory. Given the attraction of a rural home within commuting distance of London and more restrictive planning policies on new housing in small villages, hamlets and open countryside in particular, existing modest properties are invariably the subject of proposals for substantial extension or rebuild.

5.36 A large country house is a traditional feature of our countryside. However it is essential that the addition of substantial new buildings and associated activity creates a positive addition to the landscape and meets sustainability objectives in order to outweigh the loss of existing smaller homes. Replacement dwellings in small villages, hamlets or open countryside should be on a one for one basis only.

5.37 Consideration also needs to be given to the issue of 'empty homes' in particular properties that remain vacant for more than 6-months. Whilst this is not a significant issue for West Oxfordshire with less than 1% of the existing housing stock being classified as a long-term empty home, the District Council, in appropriate circumstances works with relevant organisations and property owners to seek to bring properties back into occupation.

CORE POLICY 9 - Existing Housing

Changes to existing housing will be managed to maintain sustainable communities and a high quality environment in accordance with the following principles:

  • the loss of existing dwellings to other uses will only be permitted where the dwelling does not provide satisfactory living accommodation or the proposed use will make a positive contribution to local services and facilities;
  • alterations, extensions or sub-division of existing dwellings will respect the character of the surrounding area and will not unacceptably affect the environment of people living in or visiting that area. Sub-division of existing dwellings in the open countryside and small villages will be limited to large properties where continued residential use cannot be secured in any other way.

A new dwelling to replace an existing permanent dwelling which is not of historical or architectural value will be permitted provided the character and appearance of the surrounding area is not eroded and where there would be no harmful impact on ecology or protected species. In open countryside any replacement dwelling should make a positive contribution to the area.

The District Council, in appropriate circumstances, will work with relevant organisations and property owners to ensure the number of empty homes is kept to a minimum. Proposals to bring empty residential properties back into occupation will be favourably supported in principle.