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THE PARKER KNOLL PLANNING APPLICATION
The obituaries have started -
in the Banbury Guardian. But the Death Certificate hasn't been officially issued yet - as far as we know. There was a Planning meeting on March 1st. The most important in Chippy's history. Your Editor wrote an account of it the day after (READ IT HERE). Then some strange goings-on. The official minutes were not published on the WODC website until the 15th March (two weeks later) and then on the 20th March the meeting (agenda, minutes and reports) was removed entirely from the Index of Meetings Page and archived - after just five days. We've never seen this happen before so quickly. Normally they sit there for months. But far far stranger is the minute of the hour-long meeting. Here it is....all of it.....all 58 words....
The observations of Mr Allcock, Chipping Norton Town Council, Care Consultants, the applicants agent and Oxfordshire County Council were received and considered. The Head of Planning be given delegated authority to draw up conditions and grant permission subject to the applicant first entering into a legal agreement to secure the amended Heads of Terms dated 25th February 2004.
So no decision was made. It was delegated. Has it now been made Who knows And if it has - on what terms exactly Where can we - the public - see the amended Heads of Terms The original version was discussed in "secret" session at the previous Planning meeting on Feb 2nd. The public were barred. The amended version hasn't been made public. Only "headlines" have been reported. That's where all the detail is (like who pays how much, for what and to who). Without the detail, no elector can see whether the Council have made a good deal or not. And that surely is our right. These Heads of Terms substantially vary the Planning Application that was originally made and are referred to by the applicant's agent in his letter. But there is no revised application - just side agreements between lawyers. For the Planning Committee to delegate such a crucial multi-million pound deal to an officer without the full facts and figures being clearly laid out for the Public does seem truly extraordinary! At least it does to an ordinary concerned elector.
Read that minute again. Would you think those 58 words represent the conclusionof a Planning application involving more money than the whole of West Oxfordshire's entire operating budget. Goodness me. They wrote a lot more than that last week about the new 5,000 croquet lawn in Eynsham! Roll on the Freedom of Information Act.
But there could still be an Appeal against the District's decision. Not by Parker Knoll this time but someone like the CPRE who published a new Strategy about Market Towns only last week - which this decision seems to directly contradict. Or perhaps the Planning Inspector could decide to go ahead with the hearing on the original application after all - since there are so many public interest and policy precedents involved. Stranger things have happened.
It wouldn't matter so much if the likely outcome didn't fly in the face of the Council's own Local Plan and policy on employment sites. 120 new houses and 400 fewer jobs makes no sense to anyone. And we must watch like hawks as the Appeal by PA Turney moves ahead. They have applied to build Housing on their Station Yard "employment" site. Another deal in the offing If the WODC have actually done the deed at Parker Knoll they now really owe it to the town to press for the development and marketing of the meagre 5 acres of land allocated for employment to be progressed with great urgency. Apart from getting new jobs in the town - there is another reason why this is so critical. If the development plans are not right - right kinds of units at the right price - or there is no taker for the land for employment purposes, then - as the Planning Officer has made clear - it is open to the landowner to apply for another use. The only guarantee given is that he will not apply for Housing on these 5 acres. No promises about retail use at some stage in the future. Tesco's moment could still come. The show is not over until the fat cat has sung a positively final aria and the industrial units are built!
IT'S A DONE DEAL !
The Planning Officer published his report on the latest Parker Knoll outline planning application for their 14 acre site yesterday (23rd February). This proposes :
1. 5 acres employment-generating land. To be actively marketed for 3 years.
2. 9.1 acres Residential (10% to be Open Space plus a spine road so net development land is appx 8 acres. 40% Affordable Housing)
3. Contributions to Infrastructure (Total of around 530,000)
(For your information: Land with residential planning permission sells for 1.5m- 2m per acre. Employment land sells for 350k- 400k per care)
The Planning Committee discuss the report next Monday. Here's the crucial bit.... (or READ THE FULL REPORT)
OFFICER'S REPORT ...."Your officers are of the opinion that there is one key issue in the consideration of this application, namely whether the new mix of land uses, and in particular the amount of land available for employment, is acceptable.
The amount of land available for employment has been increased from 3.5 5.0 acres. This has been achieved by absorbing the land previously identified for unspecified community facilities and readjusting the level of Public Open Space.
Your officers have previously expressed the view that the loss of this major employer will upset the balance between jobs and housing and would be likely to lead to out commuting. Significant additional housing would also lead to a similar situation unless accompanied by an increase in employment opportunities......
In your officers opinion 5 acres of land for employment could, with appropriate mechanisms to service and proactively market the land, help compensate for the jobs lost and the associated multiplier effect. The existing site provided 460 jobs on 10.8 acres (developed land) at a ratio of approximately 42 jobs/acre. Although this is a relatively low density of employment your officers have established, from the latest survey work undertaken in Witney, that ratios do vary significantly. However, 5 acres of B1 land could accommodate between 200 and 400 jobs. In essence almost half of the developed site would be retained for employment and could provide up to 400 jobs to help replace those lost. Clearly however, it is extremely difficult to accurately and confidently predict the number of jobs deriving from a specific land area. In conclusion your officers consider that this land area, when combined with the proactive marketing restrictions precluding residential development, and the level of affordable housing could, on balance, present a reasonable balance and mix of land uses.
Subject to the satisfactory receipt of outstanding consultation replies and the comments of third parties, your officers consider that the revised mix of land uses could, on balance, be acceptable".
Not exactly a ringing endorsement.... "help compensate" "could" "on balance" "reasonable" . The officers seem to accept that this plan will not actually provide sufficient land to replace all the lost jobs. But it looks as if the Planners have decided to take their tactical chance with this "windfall" application and sew up a deal which delivers 50 Affordable homes on terms which are not quite up to their Strategy objectives but pretty good nonetheless.....This is the kind of opportunity which might not crop up again in a hurry! As far as I can tell its not a bad deal at all....
WHAT'S THE DEAL ....
Currently the site is worth 14 acres x 400,000 to Parker Knoll as employment land = 5.6m.
Approval of the proposed Residential acreage will "gift" Parker Knoll 4.8 acres at an extra 1.6m per acre = 7.68m. They will lose even the present "employment land" value on 4.2 acres (The Affordable Housing Land plus Open Space) = 1.68m and pay 530,000 as a cash contribution to Infrastructure.
So the approval of this application is worth appx 5.5m NET to Parker Knoll.
The District will "theoretically" get roughly the equivalent to the land value of 3.2 acres (the Affordable 40% of 8 acres) At full market price this would be 2m per acre = 6.4m
The County will get an Infrastructure cash contribution of 530,000
The spoils are pretty evenly divided and the Appeal would be withdrawn which will save another stash of money. The Planning Committee will more or less have to accept the Officer's recommendation. Otherwise they will be way out at the end of a plank in front of the Planning Inspector at the Appeal hearing. So this looks pretty well a "done deal".
However the Town really does need to establish that this plan will not provide the amount of employment land that is required to maintain a satisfactory housing/employment balance within the town. The negotiation for additional land starts here!
There seem to be one big question to be asked and hopefully somebody on the committee will ask it for us. (Step forward District Councillor Mike Howes)
QUESTION : If the Witney experience of employment delivery shows that density can vary from 40 jobs per acre to 80 jobs per acre, what possible justification is there for taking the top figure for the whole Parker Knoll employment acreage How many sites in West Oxfordshire deliver 80 jobs an acre What kinds of businesses are they Are these the kinds of businesses that can be attracted to Chippy Most Chippy people reckon that what is needed are small workshop and studio type units - suitable for small businesses and startups. These would certainly not deliver more than 40 jobs per acre. I was talking to someone this morning looking for a site to build a new office in Chippy for 80 people and he reckoned that for a low-rise building properly landscaped he needed a minimum of 2 acres. Its difficult to be exact but 5 acres in Chippy will not deliver 400 jobs!! Your precisely chosen words are "5 acres of B1 land could accommodate between 200 and 400 jobs". Probably objectively true - but in Chippy the figure will be nearer 200 if we build the sort of units which will actually be taken up.
So if you approve this plan, do you accept that the town is likely to be left with an "employment land" deficit Do you accept that we are going to have to find up to another 5 acres somewhere Can we have an assurance that you will propose an amendment to the Draft Local Plan which at present allocates housing to the OCC-owned "greenfield" land opposite Parker Knoll If 120 houses are built on the Parker Knoll site then no others will be required for years. However there will need to be an allocation of more of this OCC-owned land for employment purposes (which could be required urgently if SEEDA agree to sponsor the development of "starter units" for ex-PK employees). Can you re-assure us this will happen
If you have a view then please please make sure you that you send an e-mail before Friday 27th February to the Area Planning Manager And please let us all know what you think in the
READ IS 5 ACRES OF LAND FOR EMPLOYMENT ENOUGH
Written before the Planning Officer's Report but still mostly relevant.
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