West Oxfordshire Proposed Submission Local Plan 2011-2031


Our housing related objectives include:

CO4 Locate new residential development where it will best help to meet local housing needs and reduce the need to travel.

CO5 Ensure the timely delivery of new housing to meet forecast needs and support sustainable economic growth.

CO6 Plan for an appropriate mix of new residential accommodation which provides a variety of sizes, types and affordability with special emphasis on the provision of homes for local people in housing need who cannot afford to buy or rent at market prices including those wishing to self-build, as well as homes to meet the needs of older people, younger people, black and minority ethnic communities, people with disabilities, families and travelling communities.

5.1 The provision of new housing is a critically important issue for West Oxfordshire and has been a key, recurring theme throughout consultation on the Local Plan to date. New housing is vital to economic growth and as an attractive and well-located place, people want to live in West Oxfordshire.

5.2 There are some key considerations to be addressed through the Local Plan including how much housing is needed, where it should be provided, what type and size of housing is required and how the needs of different groups can best be met including for example older people, younger people, families, black and minority ethnic groups, people with disabilities, travelling communities and those wishing to self-build their own home.

5.3 A particularly important issue for West Oxfordshire, due to relatively high house prices, is the need to deliver more affordable housing to assist those who are unable to buy or rent suitable accommodation on the open market.

5.4 These key issues are addressed below.

Amount of New Housing

5.5 An important consideration is the amount of new housing to be provided over the plan period. The Local Plan has a key role to play in identifying an appropriate housing target and setting out the strategy and sites to deliver it. Identifying a housing target is not however an exact science. There is no single, right answer rather it is a case of pulling together a range of relevant factors and forming a balanced view on the most appropriate level of provision.

5.7 Previously, Local Plan targets were set by regional and county structure plans. The previous regional plan for example suggested that in the 20-year period 2006 - 2026, West Oxfordshire should aim to provide 7,300 new homes (365 per year). However, regional and structure plans no longer exist and are of little direct relevance to this Local Plan.

5.8 The most up to date assessment of housing need in Oxfordshire is set out in the Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) which was published in April 2014. Across Oxfordshire as a whole, the amount of new homes recommended in the SHMA over a 20-year period is almost twice that which was envisaged under the previous regional plan. The reason for this is that the SHMA provides an 'unconstrained' objective assessment of housing need (OAN) whereas the regional plan provided a 'constrained' assessment of need that took account of relevant constraints including those relating to infrastructure and the environment.

5.9 National policy[1] states that in order to significantly boost the supply of housing, local planning authorities should use their evidence base to ensure that their Local Plan meets the full, objectively assessed needs for market and affordable housing in the housing market area, as far as is consistent with the policies set out in the framework. In this regard, the Council is committed to meeting its objectively assessed need (OAN) in full through this Local Plan. However, the Council has concerns regarding a number of aspects of the SHMA and considers that the OAN figure for West Oxfordshire set out in the SHMA (660 homes per annum) is too high and should be adjusted downwards.

5.10 In particular, the Council considers that the demographic projections and to a lesser extent the employment projections used in the SHMA have been 'inflated' by an abnormally high period of house building in the District which caused a 'spike' in migration which has been carried forward into future projections.

5.11 The inflationary effect of past housing delivery on West Oxfordshire's household projections is acknowledged in the SHMA, and whilst no adjustment has been made, the SHMA suggests that 'there is potentially a good basis for doing so.[2] 'The possibility of a downward adjustment is highlighted in national policy[3] which states that:

'If a Council has robust evidence that past high delivery rates that inform the (household) projections are no longer realistic - for example they relied on a particular set of circumstances that could not be expected to occur again - they can adjust their projections down accordingly'.

5.12 Since the SHMA was published, the Council has commissioned two separate reports to further consider this issue. The first report[4] models the impact of longer-term migration trends and concludes that around 484 homes per year are needed in West Oxfordshire. It also models the 2012-based population projections published since the SHMA was completed and concludes that between 459 and 551 homes per year are needed, the mid-point of which is 506 homes per year.

5.13 The second report[5] considers a number of aspects of the SHMA and taking account of the inflationary effect of past trends concludes that the housing need for West Oxfordshire ranges from 520 to 596 per annum, the mid-point of which is 558 homes per year.

5.14 In addition to the demographic projections, the Council also has concerns about the approach taken towards job-led growth in the SHMA which runs counter to more recent guidance published by the Planning Advisory Service in June 2014[6] . In simple terms, the guidance warns against translating job forecasts into future population and household numbers. It highlights the fact that the population assumptions that feed into job forecasts are rarely the same as the population assumptions that flow out from them which are often much higher.

5.15 In the SHMA, the basic projected population increase across Oxfordshire in the period to 2031 is just over 107,000 people. However, the job-led model which ultimately drives many of the final recommendations, assumes a potential increase of almost 184,000 people. The PAS guidance suggests that such models are inconsistent because the output population does not equal the input population. It suggests that results often make no sense and in formal logic is known as 'self-defeating prophecy'.

5.16 The Council also has concerns that the job-led assumptions used in the SHMA are not 'policy neutral' insofar as they take account of local economic initiatives resulting in an aspirational job forecast that is significantly in excess of the baseline forecast. Recent case law has established that an objective assessment of housing need should be policy neutral.

5.17 In light of the various issues outlined above and the recommendations of two separate analyses undertaken since the SHMA was published, the Council considers that the objectively assessed need (OAN) for new housing in West Oxfordshire is 525 homes per annum which over the period of the Local Plan (2011 - 2031) equates to 10,500 new homes.

1. Paragraph 47 National Planning Policy Framework https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6077/2116950.pdf [back]
2. SHMA (2014) paragraph 9.17 [back]
3. Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (paragraph: 036 Reference ID: 3-036-20140306) [back]
4. An Analysis of West Oxfordshire’s future housing requirement (Keith Woodhead June 2014) [back]
5. Validation of an objectively assessed housing need (OAN) (Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research January 2015). [back]
6. Objectively Assessed Need and Housing Targets Technical Advice Note (PBA on behalf of PAS June 2014). [back]

Distribution of Housing

5.18 In accordance with the overall strategy (Policy OS2) this Local Plan seeks to focus the majority of new housing development at the District's three main towns of Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton. This strategy has been tested extensively through consultation and sustainability appraisal (SA) and is considered to represent the most appropriate and sustainable strategy for West Oxfordshire.

5.19 It also ensures that in accordance with national policy, at least 10 years' worth of specific, developable housing sites have been identified including allocated Strategic Development Areas (SDAs) at Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton.

5.20 The remaining housing requirement will be met in the Eynsham - Woodstock and Burford - Charlbury sub-areas, with a particular focus on the main rural service centres and other larger settlements.

5.21 The Council's Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) provides an initial assessment of the suitability and deliverability of a number of sites. Additional site allocations will be made in these sub-areas as necessary through the anticipated early review of this Local Plan. The Council will work with the towns, parishes and local communities to identify suitable and deliverable sites including through Neighbourhood Plans.

5.22 The proposed distribution of housing is summarised in Policy H1 below. It should be noted that the housing figures for each sub-area are indicative and should not be taken as absolute requirements or targets. It should also be noted that housing land supply will be calculated on a district-wide basis rather than individually for each sub-area.

5.23 An allowance has been made for future 'windfall' sites yet to come forward, excluding 'garden land' development in line with the NPPF.


Policy H1 - Amount and Distribution of Housing

West Oxfordshire will provide at least 10,500 new homes between 1st April 2011 and 31st March 2031 (525 per year). In accordance with the overall strategy, the majority of new homes will be provided in the Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton sub-areas with a particular focus on Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton.

The proposed distribution of housing will be as follows:

Witney sub-area 3,700 homes

Carterton sub-area 2,600 homes

Chipping Norton sub-area 1,800 homes

Eynsham - Woodstock sub-area 1,600 homes

Burford - Charlbury sub-area 800 homes

This is an indicative distribution and should not be taken as an absolute target for each sub-area or maximum ceiling to limit development.

Development will be monitored annually to ensure that the overall strategy is being delivered. Sites for new housing will be identified through partnership working with local communities, landowners and self-build groups including the use of parish or neighbourhood plans.


Housing Delivery

5.24 In this section of the plan we explain how the proposed housing target and distribution set out in Policy H1 above will be delivered. Regard should also be had to Section 9 which sets out the proposed strategy for each of the five sub-areas in more detail.

Homes already built

5.25 Of the overall housing requirement (10,500 homes) a number of these homes have already been built in the first few years of the plan period. However, a relatively flat housing market has meant that the number of completions has been relatively low totalling just 823 in the period 2011 - 2014.

Existing commitments

5.26 It is also important to note that a large number of new homes are already in the development pipeline ranging from very small sites for just one house through to much larger sites for several hundred new homes. This includes sites that already benefit from planning permission as well as those sites that have a resolution to grant planning permission subject to a legal agreement being completed.

5.27 As of 1st February 2015, the number of homes expected to be delivered through existing commitments was 4,333.

Strategic Development Areas (SDAs)

5.28 Through this Local Plan we have identified a number of housing allocations referred to as 'Strategic Development Areas' (SDAs). These are sites that after considerable scrutiny and detailed consideration of reasonable alternatives, are considered to represent the most sustainable locations for strategic-scale housing growth within the District.

5.29 In line with the overall strategy, these proposed allocations are focused on the District's three main towns of Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton and include:

  • Land to the east of Witney (400 homes)
  • Land to the north of Witney (1,000 homes)
  • Land at REEMA Central, Carterton (200 homes)
  • Land to the east of Chipping Norton at Tank Farm (600 homes)

5.30 Further information on these sites and the alternative options that have been considered is set out in Section 9 and in the Council's supporting background evidence[7] .

SHLAA sites

5.31 In line with national policy, the Council has prepared an assessment of potential land availability for new housing in the form of a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA). The SHLAA seeks to identify suitable and deliverable housing sites at a range of settlements across the District. A number of these sites are highly likely to come forward for development, indeed a number already have or are in the process of being considered.

5.32 It is anticipated that the future delivery of these sites will make a significant contribution towards the overall housing target. Further information on those sites that have been identified as being potentially suitable within each sub-area is set out in Section 9.

Windfall Development

5.33 'Windfall' developments are essentially speculative developments on sites that are not known to the Council and have therefore not been assessed through the SHLAA. Such sites can be previously developed (brownfield) land where the current use may no longer be viable or undeveloped, Greenfield sites that the owner wishes to bring forward for development.

5.34 Such windfall development has historically formed a large component of housing delivery in West Oxfordshire and it is reasonable to assume that this trend will continue. We consider that a reasonable estimate of likely windfall delivery over the remaining period of the Local Plan (2015 - 2031) is 125 homes per annum which equates to 2,000 homes overall (400 per sub-area).

5.35 The Council's overall approach is summarised in Policy H2 below.

7. Sustainability Appraisal and Site Assessment Matrix [back]


Policy H2 - Delivery of New Homes


The Council will deliver at least 10,500 new homes in the period 2011 - 2031. This will be achieved through a combination of homes already completed, existing commitments, allocated Strategic Development Areas (SDAs) sites identified as suitable and deliverable/developable in the Council's SHLAA and windfall development.

In determining future proposals for housing the Council will apply the following criteria depending on location.

Main Service Centres, Rural Service Centres and Villages

1. New dwellings will be permitted at the main service centres, rural service centres and villages in the following circumstances:

- On sites that have been allocated for housing development within a Local Plan or relevant neighbourhood plan;

- On previously developed land within the built up area provided it is not of high environmental value (e.g. ecology) and the loss of any existing use would not conflict with other plan policies;

- On undeveloped land within or adjoining the built up area where the proposed development is necessary to meet identified housing needs and is consistent with the criteria in 3) below and other policies in this plan.

Small Villages, Hamlets and Open Countryside

2. New dwellings will be permitted in the small villages, hamlets and open countryside in the following circumstances:

- where there is an essential operational or other specific local need that cannot be met in any other way, including the use of existing buildings. Where appropriate, new homes provided (other than replacement dwellings) will be controlled by an occupancy condition linked to the operational need and/or to the 'rural exception site' approach for permanent affordable dwellings;

- where residential development would represent the optimal viable use of a heritage asset or would be appropriate enabling development to secure the future of a heritage asset;

- residential development of exceptional quality or innovative design;

- new accommodation proposed in accordance with policies specifically for travelling communities;

- accommodation which will remain ancillary to existing dwellings*;

- replacement dwellings on a one for one basis; and

- re-use of appropriate existing buildings which would lead to an enhancement of their immediate setting and where it has been demonstrated that the building is not capable of re-use for business, recreational or community uses, tourist accommodation or visitor facilities or where the proposal will address a specific local housing need which would otherwise not be met.

General Principles

3. Where acceptable in principle, all residential development will be expected to:

- Be of a proportionate and appropriate scale to its context having regard to the potential cumulative impact of development in the locality;

- Be of demonstrable benefit to the local community in which it is proposed;

- Avoid the coalescence and loss of identity of separate settlements;

- Not have a harmful impact on the amenity of adjoining occupants;

- Where applicable, form a logical complement to the existing scale and pattern of development and/or the character of the area;

- Protect and where possible enhance the local landscape and setting of the settlement;

- Make use of previously developed land where available, provided it is not of high environmental value and the loss of any existing use would not conflict with other policies of this plan;

- Not involve the loss of an area of open space or any other feature that makes an important contribution to the character or appearance of the area;

- Be provided with safe vehicular access and safe and convenient pedestrian access to supporting services and facilities;

- Not be at risk of flooding or be likely to increase the risk of flooding elsewhere;

- Comply with policies for the protection of the natural environment and heritage assets;

- Ensure it does not lead to the sterilisation of a mineral resource;

- Comply with national policies for Green Belt and AONB where applicable; and

- Provide all necessary supporting infrastructure including access to superfast broadband.

* Proposals for extensions or alterations to an existing dwelling to create a self-contained unit of accommodation may be subject to a condition ensuring the accommodation remains ancillary to the main dwelling.


Affordable Housing

5.36 Housing affordability is a key issue in West Oxfordshire because of the relationship between property prices and household incomes. Even relatively small, modest properties are beyond the reach of most single income households and as a result, there are around 1,200 households on the Council's waiting list for affordable housing.

5.37 We define affordable housing as that which is affordable to those who cannot afford market priced housing locally to rent or purchase. It is housing provided with either public or private subsidy for people who would otherwise be unable to resolve their housing requirements in the local housing market because of the relationship between housing cost and local incomes.

5.38 There are a number of different forms of affordable housing including social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing. Social rented housing is owned by local authorities and private registered providers and has a guideline target rent market determined through the national rent regime. Affordable rented housing is let by local authorities or private registered providers to households who are eligible for social rented housing. It is subject to controls that require a rent of no more than 80% of the local market rent. Intermediate housing is for sale and rent provided at a cost above social rent, but below market levels. It includes shared equity (shared ownership and equity loans), other low cost homes for sale and intermediate rent.

5.39 There is a significant need for more affordable housing in West Oxfordshire. This is confirmed in the Council's Housing Needs Assessment (2011) and the Oxfordshire SHMA (2014) with estimates ranging from 220 - 274 affordable homes needed each year. Increasing the number, type and distribution of affordable housing for both rent and subsidised sale is therefore a key priority for West Oxfordshire.

5.40 There are two main ways in which new affordable housing will be delivered; the first is through market housing developments (either as part of the development or in the form of a commuted sum towards off-site provision) and the second is through the delivery of rural exception sites (RES) which are essentially small sites used for affordable housing that would not normally be released for development.

Delivery of Affordable Housing through Market Housing schemes

5.41 In relation to market housing, previously the Council has sought the provision of affordable housing on larger housing schemes of 15 or more in the main towns and from smaller schemes of 2 or more dwellings in the rest of the District. However, national policy now states that affordable housing should generally only be sought on larger sites of more than 10 dwellings other than in designated rural areas such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) where a lower threshold can apply with medium-scale schemes of 6 - 10 dwellings being required to make a financial contribution towards affordable housing off-site. Smaller schemes of 1 - 5 dwellings are not required to make any provision for affordable housing.

5.42 Given the high level of affordable housing need within the District the Council considers that it is reasonable to seek a financial contribution from schemes of 6-10 dwellings within the Cotswolds AONB. The Council considers that an appropriate way of calculating such a commuted sum is to base it on the size of the private, market homes that are proposed[8] and charge on a £ per m2 basis in the same way as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) operates. Our viability evidence suggests that alongside CIL typical developments of 6-10 units should be able to afford an affordable housing commuted sum of £100 per m2. This figure will however be kept under review.

5.43 Thus for example, a scheme of 6 market houses each with a floor area of 100m2 would be required to make a financial contribution of £60,000 (£10,000 per unit). This payment will be deferred until after the scheme has been completed.

5.44 Affordable housing commuted sums received from developers will be put into the Council's enabling fund and used to subsidise the provision of affordable housing throughout the District including the potential acquisition of land to facilitate the delivery of community self-build schemes in appropriate locations (see Policy H5).

5.45 Outside of the Cotswolds AONB, despite the high level of affordable housing need identified, the Council is unable to seek financial contributions towards affordable housing from housing schemes of 6-10 units by virtue of the national policy position.

5.46 For larger development proposals involving 11 or more dwellings (or schemes which have a gross floorspace of more than 1,000m2) the Council will require the provision of affordable housing on-site unless it can be robustly demonstrated that this cannot be achieved for reasons of viability.

5.47 The proportion of affordable housing required will vary according to location reflecting the fact that in some parts of the District, development will have a greater value and be able to make a larger contribution. The Council's evidence suggests that the District falls into three zones. These are defined on the plan below.

Figure 5.1 - Affordable Housing Zones

 Figure 5.1 Affordable Housing Zones

5.48 Having regard to viability and identified affordable housing need, the Council considers it reasonable and justifiable to seek on-site provision of 50% affordable housing in the high value zone, 40% in the medium value zone and 35% in the low value zone.

5.49 Whilst it would be easier to adopt a flat rate across the District, this would be overly simplistic and would not reflect the fact that the gross development value of residential scheme in say Woodstock or Burford is likely to be significantly higher than a scheme in Carterton or Chipping Norton.

5.50 It is however acknowledged that proposals need to be economically viable and the Council will reassess these requirements where this is demonstrated to be necessary by a viability assessment that has been independently validated. In particular, the Council's evidence suggests there may be some viability issues with flatted schemes including extra-care and sheltered housing which will be taken into account by the Council in negotiations.

5.51 In considering residential development proposals the Council will have regard to the possibility of threshold dodging whereby land is promoted for a smaller number of dwellings than it is capable of accommodating in order to avoid a requirement to provide for affordable housing. In such instances, the Council will resist proposals that fail to make efficient use of land.

5.52 With regard to the type and size of affordable homes, this will need to reflect the current housing strategy, local housing need and relevant site constraints. The Council will seek, as a guide, an overall mix of affordable housing in the following proportions:

  • 65% to be one and two bedroom homes to meet the needs of younger single and couple households, older people and small family households;
    • 35% to be three and four bedroom homes.

5.53 In terms of the type of affordable housing to be provided, there is a significantly greater need for rented accommodation than for the various forms of intermediate housing. As such a ratio of 2:1 in favour of affordable rented homes will be generally sought however this is a general guide only and the precise mix will be determined on a case by case basis.

Other Mechanisms for Delivering Affordable Housing

5.54 In addition to securing new affordable housing through market housing schemes, the Council will welcome in principle other solutions to meeting the District's affordable housing need such as self-build. New build affordable homes contributing towards the District target will include those provided as an element of new residential development and additional homes proposed and built by housing associations or community trusts on other land.

5.55 The Council will also continue to identify suitable sites for affordable housing through rural exception sites (RES). This approach has been in operation throughout West Oxfordshire (outside Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton) for over 20 years and has delivered over 350 new homes to meet needs which were not otherwise being met within the local community. This exception approach will remain available for 100% affordable housing schemes to meet specific local needs on land which would not be released for market housing.

5.56 The NPPF refers to the possibility of allowing some market housing in rural areas where this would facilitate the provision of significant additional affordable housing to meet local needs. Any such proposal will be considered against the relevant policies of the Local Plan including in particular Policy OS2 - Locating Development in the Right Places and Policy H2 - Delivery of New Homes.

5.57 Where the site is in a location that would not normally be considered appropriate for new housing, it will be for the developer or landowner to demonstrate not only why the site is suitable for housing, but also why a traditional rural exception site approach (i.e. 100% affordable housing) is not appropriate or achievable. In other words, they will need to demonstrate why the market housing is needed to subsidise the delivery of the affordable housing. In such cases, any market housing would be expected to be a subsidiary element of a predominantly affordable housing scheme.

8. Gross Internal Area (GIA) [back]


Policy H3 - Affordable Housing


In order to address identified affordable housing needs, the Council will require 'qualifying' market housing schemes to make an appropriate contribution towards the provision of affordable housing within the District.

Small-scale developments of 1 - 5 units will not be required to contribute.

Within the Cotswolds AONB, medium-scale housing schemes of 6-10 units and with a maximum gross floorspace of 1,000m2 or less will be required to make a financial contribution towards the provision of affordable housing off-site within the District. This commuted sum will be deferred until completion of the development to assist with viability.

Outside of the Cotswolds AONB, medium-scale housing schemes of 6-10 units and with a maximum gross floorspace of 1,000m2 or less will not be required to make a financial contribution towards affordable housing.

Across the District as a whole, larger-scale housing schemes of 11 or more units and/or with a gross floorspace of more than 1,000m2 will be required to provide affordable housing on-site as a proportion of the market homes proposed as follows:

- High value zone (50%)

- Medium value zone (40%)

- Low value zone (35%)

In circumstances where it can be demonstrated that the level of affordable housing being sought would make a scheme unviable, a revised mix and type of housing will be considered before a lower level of affordable housing provision is accepted. Where external funding is available it may be applied to schemes to ensure affordability of rental levels or to increase the number or to change tenure or type of homes to meet priority needs.

Affordable housing mix and tenure will be responsive to identified local needs and site specific opportunities. A financial contribution for the provision of affordable housing on other sites in West Oxfordshire in lieu of on-site provision may be appropriate if it can be demonstrated that:

- It is not physically possible or feasible to provide affordable housing on the application site; or

- There is evidence that a separate site would more satisfactorily meet local housing need and contribute to the creation of mixed communities.

In some instances, a combination of on-site provision and a financial contribution may be appropriate.

West Oxfordshire District Council and its partners will work with Parish Councils, Registered Providers of affordable housing and local housing, community land and self-build trusts to identify additional suitable rural sites for small scale affordable housing schemes to meet specific local housing needs which cannot be met in any other way. All new homes on these sites will remain affordable in perpetuity to people in housing need who have a local connection with the parish or appropriate adjoining parishes. Sites will be well-related to the existing built-up areas of towns and villages. Where family homes are proposed priority will be given to locations within a reasonable walking distance of a primary school.


Type and Mix of Homes Needed

5.58 Having determined the amount of housing to be provided and how it will be distributed across the District, we need to consider what type and mix of homes should be sought through the Local Plan.

5.59 There are a number of issues to address including the size of new homes needed (i.e. 1-bed, 2-bed, 3-bed etc.) the type of new homes needed (i.e. flats, terraced houses, semi-detached houses, detached etc.) and how the needs of different groups of people can best be met including older people, people with disabilities, younger people, families, those wishing to self-build their own home etc.

5.60 We deal with each of these issues in turn below.

The Size of New Homes Needed - Market Housing

5.61 The existing housing stock in West Oxfordshire is dominated by larger properties. Whilst recent developments at Witney (Madley Park) and Carterton (Shilton Park) have helped to increase the stock of smaller homes available, the overall imbalance remains with the 2011 Census identifying that almost 70% of properties have 3 or more bedrooms. This is similar to the trend across Oxfordshire as a whole.

5.62 Previous evidence[9] suggested that in order to create a more balanced housing stock, new housing developments should provide around 60% 1 and 2-bed properties and 40% 3 and 4+bed properties. More recent evidence[10] suggests that future provision of market housing in Oxfordshire should be focused on delivering smaller family housing for younger households.

5.63 As a general guide, it is suggested that market housing in West Oxfordshire should be sought in the following proportions:

  • 4.8% 1-bed properties
  • 27.9% 2-bed properties
  • 43.4% 3-bed properties
  • 23.9% 4+bed properties

5.64 This suggests that the main focus should be 2 and 3-bed properties and to a lesser extent 4 bed and larger. We will consider this evidence as a starting point in relation to negotiations over housing mix taking into account the need to provide an appropriate balance of dwelling types and for development to be of a character that is appropriate for its location, in the interests of creating sustainable communities.

Type of homes needed

5.65 The existing housing stock in West Oxfordshire is characterised by a reasonable spread of different property types although there is a slight imbalance towards semi-detached and detached properties, the proportion of which is higher than the national and regional averages.

5.66 The Oxfordshire SHMA does not provide any guidance on future housing requirements by property type (only by size) but having regard to the current breakdown set out above, the Council will in general terms continue to seek a balanced mix of property types in future housing schemes across the District.

Figure 5.2 - Residential Property Types in Oxfordshire (2011 Census)


5.69 West Oxfordshire has a relatively old demographic profile reflecting the fact that it is an attractive District that people wish to remain living in or retire to. Between 1981 and 2011 the proportion of residents aged 60+ increased by 82% (11,900 people) and 18% of people are currently aged 65 and over (compared with 16% nationally).

5.70 Importantly, future projections suggest that the number of older people in West Oxfordshire will continue to increase. In the period 2011 - 2031, the proportion aged 55+ is projected to increase by 54% with a particularly high increase in people aged 85+ (160%). This will be coupled with a significant increase in the number of people suffering from dementia and mobility problems.

5.71 The Local Plan has a key role to play in ensuring that suitable housing (and health care) is provided for older people. This is likely to be through a combination of specialist housing provision (e.g. retirement and extra-care housing) as well as ensuring that new homes are adaptable and allow people to stay in their own homes longer (e.g. provision of wider doorways, lower windows etc.).

5.72 In terms of specialist housing provision for older people there are a number of different types including:

  • Sheltered/age exclusive housing;
  • Extra-care housing (also known as very-sheltered housing);
  • Close care or assisted living housing;
  • Care homes; and
  • Care homes with nursing (previously known as nursing homes)

5.73 There are currently around 614 older persons housing units in West Oxfordshire the majority of which (523) are in private market schemes with the remainder (91) provided in the affordable sector[11] . Relative to the District's population this represents 66 units per 1,000 persons aged 75 and over, well below the county average (133 units per 1,000) and significantly below the national average (170 units per 1,000).

5.74 There is clearly a need to boost supply. The Oxfordshire SHMA (2014) suggests that in order to achieve the current Oxfordshire average of 133 units per 1,000, an additional 1,891 new properties would need to be provided in West Oxfordshire in the period 2011 - 2031 (95 per year). To achieve the current national average of 170 units per 1,000, a total of 2,588 new properties would need to be provided (129 per year).

5.75 These are 'net' figures that take no account of replacement provision of existing accommodation that is no longer fit for purpose. The 'gross' need is therefore expected to be higher.

5.76 Whilst these figures are indicative only and should be treated with some caution, they clearly demonstrate that there will be an increasing need for specialist older persons housing in the District over the period of the Local Plan. The Council will therefore seek to increase the supply of such housing by encouraging specific schemes in suitable, sustainable locations and seeking to ensure that older persons housing is provided as part of the overall mix of development on larger developments.

5.77 We will also seek to ensure that new homes built in the District are able to be easily adapted to meet the changing needs of occupants as they get older and support people who require aids and adaptations in order to be able to stay in their own home.

5.78 We will also:

  • Support in principle the redevelopment of existing older persons accommodation that may be unsuitable and/or fails to comply with current legislative requirements;
  • Seek to effectively utilise the existing affordable housing stock and will support and encourage those in affordable housing who wish to down-size in order to help release larger affordable homes for younger households;
  • Seek to ensure enough subsidised or low cost housing of a decent quality is provided for those who cannot afford market prices;
  • Seek to facilitate the requirements of older owner-occupiers wishing to 'downsize' into non-specialist accommodation (e.g. bungalows); and
  • Work with the County Council, other local authorities and stakeholders in relation to the delivery of specialist housing for older people.

People with Disabilities

5.79  The SHMA suggests that across Oxfordshire as a whole, demographic trends are expected to lead to a significant growth in the population and number of households with disabilities over the period to 2031. The 2011 Census shows that around 15,000 people in West Oxfordshire (14.5%) currently suffer from a long-term health problem or disability.

5.80  PANSI (Projecting Adults Needs & Service Information System) data estimates there will be 40,537 people with a serious and moderate physical disability aged between 18 and 64 in Oxfordshire by 2015. In West Oxfordshire, there will be 6,698 residents (17%) with a serious and moderate physical disability.

5.81  Oxfordshire County Council is aiming to deliver 390 homes for working age adults with various disabilities across Oxfordshire by 2020. Their strategy[12] identifies that West Oxfordshire should be seeking to provide 63 of the overall 390 homes target with a particular focus on Witney.

5.82 The strategy envisages 3 main ‘models’ of delivery:

  • Specially adapted, purpose built accommodation for groups of residents either in shared or self-contained homes;
  • Purpose built wheelchair accessible homes, provided as part of the overall mix of housing on new developments;
  • Conventional homes with limited adaptations and communal facilities but for groups of adults with a learning disability or mental health need to live in as a group;

5.83 In light of the identified needs outlined above, the Council will seek to increase the supply of housing for those with disabilities through a number of measures. This will range from encouraging the provision of specific purpose built properties to ensuring that a proportion of the homes provided as part of larger housing developments are built to high accessibility standards. The need for specialist housing on qualifying sites will be determined through a local register managed by the District / County Council. Our proposed approach is set out in Policy H4 below.

Black and minority ethnic (BME) households

5.84 The Oxfordshire SHMA (2014) highlights black and minority ethnic (BME) households as potentially having particular housing needs. Notably, West Oxfordshire has a very low percentage of black or minority ethnic households (6.8%) when compared to Oxfordshire as a whole (15.4%) and the regional (13.9%) and national (19.3%) averages.

5.85 The SHMA concludes that across Oxfordshire as a whole, BME households appear to be typically younger and less likely to be owner occupiers. There is consequently, a greater reliance on the private rented sector. BME households are also more likely to be overcrowded and less likely to under-occupy dwellings. The SHMA suggests that the implications of this are more for housing strategy than planning.

5.86 Given the relatively small BME population of the District and the lack of clear actions identified for the planning system in the SHMA, we are not proposing any specific measures to address the housing needs of BME households other than in relation to our overall objective of securing a good, balanced mix of dwelling types and tenures to meet the needs of a range of different people (see Policy H4 below).

Households with children

5.87 The SHMA provides some limited commentary on meeting the needs of families (i.e. any household with at least one dependent child). It suggests that across Oxfordshire, the number of children (aged under-15) is expected to increase markedly by around 38,000 in the period 2011 – 2031 (33%). In West Oxfordshire, according to the 2011 census there were 19,500 people aged 0 – 15 (18.6%) similar to the national and regional averages.

5.88  The SHMA highlights the fact that lone parents are households with children are about four times more likely than other households to be overcrowded and that other than for married couple households, levels of under-occupancy are very low. It states that households with children should be seen as a priority and that Councils should therefore seek to ensure that the housing offer meets the needs of such households, in particular the need to ensure a reasonable quality of housing in the private rented sector.

5.89  We will therefore seek to achieve a good, balanced mix of dwelling sizes, types and tenures including market and affordable housing in order to ensure households with children are able to access suitable housing.   

Service Families

5.90 The SHMA does not consider the needs of service families in detail but with RAF Brize Norton located within the District this is an important consideration for West Oxfordshire. The Council works closely with the Ministry of Defence in order to understand the future needs associated with RAF Brize Norton including future accommodation requirements for service personnel and their families.

5.91 In 2012 the MOD announced that they needed fewer homes for service families than originally planned. 200 new homes will be built on the REEMA North site in Carterton and the REEMA Central site which had originally been reserved for service family housing will be released to the open market (See Section 9.0).

5.92  The needs of a number of service families are also met on the open market in rental or owner-occupied properties. We will therefore continue to work closely with the MOD to ensure that the accommodation needs of service families linked to RAF Brize Norton are catered for over the period of the Local Plan.

5.93  This will include consideration of the potential re-development of existing MOD housing stock in Carterton to provide a better quality housing offer and environmental enhancements more generally (see Section 9.0).

Young people

5.94  Providing for the needs of younger person households is an important consideration. The ability to retain young people in an area can assist in providing a more balanced demographic profile as well as providing a vital part of the local workforce. The SHMA highlights the fact that of those households that are headed by a younger person, very few are owner-occupiers and there is a particular reliance on the private rented sector and to a lesser degree, social rented housing.

5.95 It suggests that factors such as a balanced approach to housing in terms of bedroom sizes and property types, along with high standards for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) will help younger households to access housing. There are very few HMOs in West Oxfordshire so this latter point is less relevant but we will seek to ensure a good, balanced mix of house types and tenures is provided in all new housing developments. The provision of affordable housing (Policy H3) and support for self-build projects (Policy H5) will also help to meet the needs of younger people.


5.96 The SHMA (2014) highlights the importance of student housing demand within the Oxfordshire Housing Market Area. It considers potential future growth in the student population and current plans to increase the supply of accommodation. The analysis is however centred largely around Oxford City and there are no conclusions of note reached in relation to West Oxfordshire.

5.97 Given the relative lack of higher education facilities in the District, student accommodation is not considered to be a key issue for West Oxfordshire and as such we do not propose any specific policies or proposals.


5.98 National policy requires future housing provision to take into account the needs of a broad range of groups of people. The above analysis has highlighted a number of key issues and considerations and these are reflected in Policy H4 below.


9. West Oxfordshire 2011 Housing Needs Assessment [back]
10. Oxfordshire SHMA (2014) [back]
11. Oxfordshire SHMA (2014) [back]
12. Strategy for delivering an increased supply of specialist housing for adults with care and support needs in Oxfordshire – Oxfordshire County Council (May 2013). [back]


Policy H4 - Type and Mix of New Homes


All residential developments will be required to provide or contribute towards the provision of a good, balanced mix of property types and sizes.

Developers will be required to demonstrate how their proposal would help create a more balanced housing stock within the District and meet the needs of a range of different groups having regard to specific local needs.

Particular support will be given to proposals for specialist housing for older people including but not restricted to, extra-care housing. Opportunities for extra care will be sought in service centres and other locations with good access to services and facilities for older people.

In recognition of the ageing population the Council will also require larger housing developments of 11 or more units to provide a percentage of market homes as accessible and adaptable housing (formerly lifetime homes). This will be a matter for negotiation but as a minimum the Council will seek the provision of at least 25% of market and affordable homes to this standard.

To support the anticipated increase in the number of people with disabilities (linked to the ageing population) the Council will require larger housing developments of 11 or more homes to provide a percentage of market and affordable homes as wheelchair user dwellings (formerly wheelchair accessible homes). Again this will be a matter for negotiation but as a minimum the Council will seek the provision of at least 5% of homes to this standard (with a minimum of 1 unit).

The provision of specialist housing for those with a disability will be supported in principle in accessible, sustainable locations subject to other policies in this plan. The District Council will work with the County Council and other relevant partners to identify suitable sites and opportunities.


Custom Build Housing

5.99 Custom build housing is where a builder is contracted by a home owner to create a 'custom built' home or where a private individual builds their home as a DIY 'self-build' project. This can range from single dwellings built for or by an individual to larger schemes with many homes built as custom or self-build housing.

5.100 The Government is massively supportive of custom build housing which is seen as a more affordable route to home ownership and an opportunity to create bespoke, well-designed and sustainably constructed new homes. It also offers opportunities to smaller builders and contractors, creating local jobs and contributing to the local economy.

5.101 In June 2014, the Government announced a £150m loan scheme that aims to provide around 10,000 serviced plots over the next 6-years. It has also endorsed an online self-build portal[13] to provide information to potential custom and self-builders.

5.102 In a recent consultation[14] the Government consulted on a new 'right to build' under which custom builders will have a right to a plot from local authorities. The outcome of the consultation is not yet known but if the measures are implemented as proposed, the Council will need to establish the level of demand for custom and self-build in the District, provide the opportunity for interested parties to register their interest, assess the eligibility of those that express an interest and then seek to address the level of identified demand.

5.103 The Government envisages that there are a number of ways in which demand for custom and self-build will be met including specific site allocations within local plans, policies within local plans that require developers to provide a proportion of land for custom and self-build and local authorities buying land and disposing of their own surplus assets. Potentially, local authorities will through these various measures need to offer a suitable and serviced plot to someone who has registered an interest within a prescribed period of time (e.g. 3 years).

5.104 The SHMA (2014) provides some limited commentary on self-build in Oxfordshire, highlighting the fact that research is fairly limited including data about how many schemes are coming forward. It suggests that in policy terms there is some potential to encourage developers of large sites to designate parts of those sites as 'serviced plots' which can then be developed as self-build. It also highlights the financial challenge faced by those wishing to self-build with most self-build schemes commissioned by those with substantial savings rather than borrowings.

5.105 Since the SHMA was published, we have collected some further evidence of local custom build demand by commissioning a local agent to supply data on the numbers of individuals and groups searching for residential plots in West Oxfordshire. This suggests that there are 427 potential custom/self-builders seeking suitable plots within the District.

5.106 There is clearly a good level of demand for custom build and self-build housing in the District and the Council is keen to support increased delivery to promote greater diversity in the local housing stock, innovative design and more affordable and sustainable construction.

5.107 We will therefore implement a number of measures including:

  • Continuing to establish an accurate picture of demand for custom and self-build in the District;
  • Offering support and advice to those wishing to undertake a custom/self-build project in the District;
  • Maintaining a database of those individuals and organisations who have expressed an interest in custom/self-build projects in the District;
  • Working with individuals and self-build groups to help identify suitable and deliverable sites including through the development of Neighbourhood Plans;
  • Endeavouring to offer a suitable plot to those individuals/organisations within a reasonable period of time;
  • Utilising affordable housing commuted sums secured under Policy H3 to acquire land in order to promote affordable custom/self-build projects;
  • Requiring a proportion of larger housing developments (100 or more dwellings) to set aside a proportion of their site for custom/self-build or to provide other suitable land available off-site for custom/self-build purposes; and
  • Encouraging the re-use of existing buildings through custom/self-build projects (see Policies OS2 and H2 and E3).

5.108 Our proposed approach is summarised in Policy H5 below. Where custom build involves or is delivered via a housing association, the scheme should comply with the definition and requirements set out at Policy H3 - Affordable Housing.

13. http://www.selfbuildportal.org.uk/ [back]
14. Right to Build: supporting custom and self-build (October 2014) [back]


Policy H5 - Custom and Self-Build Housing


In order to address the need for custom and self-build housing, the Council will require all housing developments of 100 or more dwellings to include 5% of the residential plots to be serviced and made available for this purpose. This can include the partial completion of units to be made available for self-finish.

As an alternative, the developer may provide serviced land for an equivalent number of custom and self-build plots in another suitable, sustainable location.

If any of the serviced plots/units offered for custom/self-build/self-finish remain unsold after 12 months marketing, they may be built out by the developer.

Only where it can be robustly demonstrated that the provision of on-site plots is unviable or cannot be achieved for some other reason and the developer is unable to make off-site provision will the Council waive the 5% requirement.

All schemes will be considered in accordance with the custom/self-build checklist contained in the Council's Design Guide.

The Council will generally control access to custom/self-build housing schemes by establishing and maintaining a Register of Interest of those who wish to become custom builders and meet relevant criteria.

Elsewhere, proposals for custom and self-build housing will be approved in suitable, sustainable locations subject to compliance with other relevant policies of this plan including Policies OS2, H2 and E3.


Existing Housing

5.109 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.

5.110 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.

5.111 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.

5.112 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.

5.113 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.

5.114 Our approach is set out in Policy H6 below.


Policy H6 - 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 it can be demonstrated they are in an unsuitable location for housing, do not provide satisfactory living accommodation, are not needed to meet an identified local housing need, 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;

- proposals to replace an existing permanent dwelling which is not of historical or architectural value on a one-for-one basis, provided the character and appearance of the surrounding area is not eroded, there would be no harmful impact on ecology or protected species and the replacement dwelling is of a reasonable scale relative to the original building.

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.


5.115 All Councils are required to make adequate provision to meet the housing needs of gypsies, traveller and travelling showpeople. Councils should undertake an assessment of need and develop effective strategies to meet those needs through the identification of land for sites.

5.116 They should set 'pitch' targets for gypsies and travellers and 'plot' targets for travelling showpeople. The SHMA (2014) does not address the needs of travelling communities but the Council already has a good idea of how many pitches and plots are needed to meet future needs from a number of previous studies.

5.117 At present in West Oxfordshire there are ten authorised Gypsy and Traveller sites, two in the northern half of the District (at Kingham and Chadlington) and eight in the southern half (Standlake, Alvescot, Minster Lovell, Weald, Carterton, Stanton Harcourt, Barnard Gate and Eynsham).

5.118 Most of the sites are small, accommodating one family. The Beeches, near Chadlington, and the site at Ting Tang Lane, near Minster Lovell, are the two largest sites with in excess of 20 and 30 pitches respectively. Other than The Furlong at Standlake which is owned and managed by Oxfordshire County Council, all the sites are privately run. There are five sites for Travelling Showpeople in the District, all privately owned, at: Cassington, Witney, Shilton, Sutton and Freeland.

5.119 In addition there is an unauthorised encampment of new travellers at Eynsham (for 5 families) and a currently unoccupied unauthorised development for 8 pitches for Gypsies at Tar Road, Stanton Harcourt.

5.120 In terms of future requirements, in relation to gypsies and travellers, the most recent evidence suggests there is a need for around 20 additional pitches in the period up to 2029. For travelling showpeople there is a need for around 27 plots over the same period. Taking into account existing provision there is a shortfall of around 16 pitches for gypsies and travellers and 21 plots for travelling showpeople.

5.121 The Council has not yet allocated any specific sites for travelling communities but intends to do so through an early review of this Local Plan. In the interim, a criteria-based approach will be applied in order to deal with any speculative proposals that are submitted to the Council for consideration. Policy H7 below will apply.


Policy H7 - Travelling Communities


New pitches/plots/sites for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople will be provided in accordance with identified needs by:

- safeguarding existing sites

- extending existing sites where appropriate

- bringing forward new sites if required, either through planning permission or through the development plan process.

New sites should meet the following criteria:

- be in or near existing settlements with safe and convenient access to local services and facilities, especially schools, shops and healthcare;

- be well located to the highway and public transport network, as well as having safe and convenient vehicular, cycle and pedestrian access;

- be of an appropriate scale not to have an adverse impact on environmental or heritage assets and the character and appearance of the surrounding area;

- not conflict with the objectives of Green Belt or AONB designation;

- not be located in areas at flood risk; and

- be designed in accordance with Government's Good Practice guidance