In their second virtual planning meeting on 4th June, Cherwell District Council approved a major development in Kidlington from Churchill Retirement Living to provide retirement homes on the site of the Kidlington Green Social Club (planning reference 19/02341/F).
Speaking as ward councillor, Ian Middleton raised several concerns about the lack of parking availability, the height of the building and the commitment of the developers to provide renewable energy and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
He also commented about the lack of affordable housing within the development. The report on the application highlighted that in lieu of any affordable provision within the development, the developers assessed contribution towards affordable development elsewhere in Cherwell should have been £1.34M. However officers reported that developers initially offered only £12,000. After this was rejected, a contribution of a little over £348,000 was negotiated, representing a discount of nearly £1M.
The developers argued that the project would not be viable if the full contribution was insisted on. Due to government rules on viability assessments, and the potential costs involved in defending an appeal, officers agreed to a reduced contribution, arguing that the value of the development to the local area justified such a large shortfall.
Ian Middleton commented,
"Whilst I support this kind of development in the area, and agree that a retirement home is a good use of this brownfield space, I find it hard to accept that the applicants could not either include affordable units in the development or meet the full amount of the affordability contribution.
“The company involved posted a pre-tax profit of over £55m last year, suggesting the long term prospects for this development could support a greater contribution. Officers did their best, but their hands have been tied by government loopholes like viability assessments that allow developers to dodge their responsibilities to communities.
“Developers know how to game the system and councillors and the planning committee need to take tougher stance. This has echoes of the 2016 Kidlington Co-operative development where applicants managed to wriggle out of the affordability requirement in much the same way.
“I asked for assurances that the affordable contribution in this case would be spent in Kidlington but was told there was no guarantee. Last month the council decided to hand the allocation of new affordable housing in this area to the Oxford City Council. It’s a scandal that Kidlington is consistently sold short on affordable housing in one of the least affordable areas in Cherwell.”
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