“Options for Growth” is Cherwell District Council’s public consultation on where new residential development should be situated in the period up to 2026. Following publication of the consultation document, the Society established a working group to co-ordinate its response. In its first week, the working group held a preliminary meeting, revisited all the proposed sites and made initial contact with the Parish Councils of all Banbury’s neighbouring communities. At a second meeting of the working group, it was decided which sites appeared unacceptable and which were more acceptable, subject to caveats.
On grounds of landscape, traffic and sustainability, it was felt that further development on the periphery of the town was generally undesirable, with development beyond the Salt Way being particularly so. The Canalside site was approved on the basis of the published figure of 485 homes, as the area’s sensitive regeneration would be of great benefit to the town. Grave reservations were expressed about advice received from the Council’s partners, English Partnerships, however. This indicates that, in order to make the Canalside redevelopment financially viable, 1200 dwellings would be required and that community facilities such as a school would be unaffordable.
As detailed in the Chairman’s letter to the Banbury Cake (published in our last newsletter), the working group also concluded that the Council’s apparent rejection of the South Grimsbury site (Site D – Thorpe Way / Spittal Farm waterworks / Grundon) was premature. It was felt that the allocation of this site could potentially eliminate the need for development on the Council’s preferred greenfield sites around the town and that it presents much the best opportunity for the sustainable expansion of Banbury over the next twenty years.
To generate a coordinated response, further discussions were subsequently held with representatives of the parishes and Banbury Town Council. The Society presented its proposals to a well-attended public meeting of Hanwell Parish Council, chaired by CDC’s former Head of Planning, Alan Jones. Another meeting of the working group was held to finalise our response to the consultation before the timely submission of the Society’s response to CDC.
Following submission “Options for Growth” was discussed in detail at the Society’s December meeting with CDC Planners. At this meeting CDC’s Planners dismissed the South Grimsbury option, stating that its allocation could be challenged by developers as being not financially viable and therefore ‘undeliverable’. Despite government requirements that new housing should be on pre-developed sites wherever possible, it was explained that Banbury could not afford to lose its industrial land and that the housebuilders require more easily developed sites. The Council would thus be obliged to provide the housebuilders with some large greenfield sites.
The Society continues to contend that a coordinated mixed-use masterplan for the regeneration of Canalside and South Grimsbury together represent the best option for Banbury’s sustainable growth and that only the regeneration of the two sites together could deliver the riverside park, public transport hub and third river crossing that the town desperately needs. The findings of a recent audit that Banbury has over 1,000,000 square feet of unused industrial space appears to add further weight to the argument (Banbury Cake, 8th January 2009). We shall continue to lobby Council officers and elected members on this ongoing issue and would encourage our members to do the same.