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Wimpey Homes have an Outline agreement (inherited from a deal done between Parker Knoll and WODC) to develop the old Parker Knoll factory site as 5 acres of land for employment use and 11 acres for 133 homes including landscaping. Now the Planning process reaches the "what goes where" stage. The Planning Committee decide on July 4th. The Town Council feel very strongly that the residential development should be closest to the town, next to Holy Trinity and easily accessible directly to the Town Centre by foot down Rockhill.  This layout would also ensure that the new hospital was facing a residential area. New Industrial Units on the edge of town would form a natural "edge" to the community. It all seems so obvious that we have been very puzzled as to why the Planners aren't agreeing. There are some clues in the Planning Report just published. (READ THE PLANNERS REPORT HERE). They are summarised below


The developer says that its been common understanding all along between the District, OCC and the landowner that the existing access would be retained as the single access point for the whole site - both industrial and residential.  This would avoid the necessity of destroying any trees along London Road, and allow the entire stone wall to be preserved. The Highways Authority require a single access point and supported this plan.  So with this understanding - the Industrial area has to stay on the town side. Otherwise the single access point would be in the Housing area and traffic accessing the Industrial units would have to all go through the residential area. Also since the commercial buildings would be taller and bigger it would be best not to have these facing open countryside. (However the developer also agrees that none of this has actually been firmly agreed. Its all still up for decision) But there are some other reasons given.....some of which is new  information.

- The only existing buildings that have a realistic potential for reuse  are those lying on the western part of the site;

-The site was offered for sale by Parker Knoll subject to an existing lease in favour of Stagecoach, who occupy buildings and land on the western part of the site;

- In our role as marketing agents for the site, the interest shown to date has been in those buildings and not in new-build; and

- It must on any view be consistent with the Governments sustainable objectives to retain and reuse existing buildings wherever possible.

So what this seems to say is that the Bus garage- type buildings closest to Holy Trinity on the west side will be preserved. (Indeed this is what it looks like on the ground. They alone have been left standing) Some of these buildings are already presumably leased to Stagecoach. They will form part of the 5 acres employment land.  No interest has been shown in new build units. All of this is used as further evidence as to why the Industrial 5 acres have to be on the town side of the development.

But hang on a minute please.........nobody has ever clearly suggested before that existing buildings would be preserved as part of the 5 acre employment area.  A group of business people in the town made some proposals over a year ago designed to try and preserve jobs which involved retaining some of the existing buildings and were told this was completely impractical. At the Outline Planning stage the Planning Officer clearly stated that these 5 acres could generate 200-300 jobs. It was on that basis that the "split" between residential and industrial was agreed. Large (bus) Garages might be nominally "light industrial" but quite clearly they will only generate a tiny number of jobs per acre. The Planners suggest in their assesment that these existing frontage buildings are being "converted" (and so may not be used a garage/warehouse structures) and are a route to early jobs. Converted to what  The Town Council consistently argued that 5 acres was nowhere near enough employment land. The District decided it was. Moreover, the District insisted on a strong marketing effort by the developer to get the right type of units built and taken up. So what is happening now   We need to see the detailed plans for the industrial 5 acres alongside the plans for houses. However the reference to no interest being shown in "new build" units is deeply worrying. Particularly since at recent meeting between the Town Council and WODC we were told that strong positive interest was being shown in the BI development.

It now seems that all previous discussions have taken place with a Stagecoach lease in place which presumably the developer cannot or does not want to buy out and that it is this lease which is forcing the location of the employment land into the western part of the site. The Town Council are opposed to this. The Planners say....

"your officers do not consider that it would be reasonable to refuse permission on the basis of the location of the employment land. Whilst some may consider it preferable for the employment to be sited to the eastern end of the site this does not make the proposed siting unacceptable". 

What on earth does this mean

Another bone of contention appears to be parking provision on the site. Read what the developer says and what the Police think.

The developer says.....Parking has been provided at an average rate of just under 2 spaces per dwelling, and care has been taken in the layout to ensure that the presence of parking does not dominate the street scene. Generally it is incorporated into a number of parking courtyards, with a mixture of garages and open spaces to maintain some flexibility towards variations in car ownership between households. Natural surveillance of these areas has been encouraged by the orientation of the buildings and routes through. The inclusion of flats over garages in some courtyards will further promote activity and surveillance. Some casual parking has been provided around the perimeter of the central open space.

Thames Valley Police say.....The matters that concern me most are the vehicle parking areas; the number of footpath links and enclosed footpaths. Although West Oxfordshire is a relatively low crime rate area, Chipping Norton does have quite high levels of crime compared to other areas and vehicle crime is one of the highest types of recorded crime in the area. Plots 1-27 Within 27 dwellings there are 5 main pedestrian links through from the main road to parking areas and access to the rest of the estate. This is far too much permeability and will result in residents not knowing who is using them and many opportunities for crime to occur. I am also very concerned that at the rear of these dwellings, especially as an example, Plots 17 to 22, the footpath is of dog leg style and enclosed on both sides by 1.8m high fencing. This will induce a fear of crime in many users, make the paths unsafe and they will become a gathering area for anti-social behaviour as well as a dumping ground for rubbish. The paths then lead onto parking areas which are far too large, with the vast majority of residents unable to see their vehicles, due to the design and the rear garden fences. I feel these car parks will become a very unsafe area in which to park as there is no natural surveillance over them and criminals have the opportunity to commit crime along with the escape routes ready made for them. Plots 73 82 and 54 59 Again these parking areas are larger than recommended and also have a number of ways that one can enter them either by vehicle or as a pedestrian. This increases the risk of crime as well as making them ideal play areas for young people which is not tolerated by todays society."

I am also concerned that only a small play area has been included for young children and nothing appears to be provided for teenagers and young people. Where do the children meet and play when they grow too old for this one facility

The Planning assessment does not appear to give any weight to the Police concerns.

The decision on this application was "deferred" at the Planning meeting on July 4th. We hope this was for further discussion with the town. Since the Planners Report was published there has been a lot of activity by concerned townsfolk.
1.We are sure as its possible to be that there was never any lease involving a building between Stagecoach and Parker Knoll.
2. Experts believe that the idea of "refurbishing" the bus garage building left standing in order to provide early employment is pure fantasy. Take a look at the building. Its breeze blocks, asbestos and rotting wood. Whats to re-furbish
3. Councillor Grantham has been out measuring the gaps between the trees. There is a second break (at the Northern end of the site) in both the avenue of trees  and the wall which is almost as big as the one at the Holy Trinity end of the site. It is bunkum to say that this issue affects where the industrial land allocation should be placed.
4. The Inspector's report on the Local Plan - published only this week - contains the following on Page 82. Is it relevant
The (District) Council do not dispute the assertion made at the Inquiry that Oxfordshire County Council have negotiated a deal to gain access to Tank Farm through the Parker Knoll factory . The existing access is to be improved to facilitate its redevelopment....



If you answered "the one on the right" then you and the Town Council are on the same wavelength. But the one on the left is what Wimpey are asking for and look like getting. The Planning Committee are coming to town this week to visit the site and decide. Hilary Biles and Mike Howes are both on the Planning Committee so let them know what you think! You can argue the pros and cons of this for ages but when your Editor put it to a Planning Officer that it would be nice for the school to be next to houses rather than industrial units he replied..."Well they've been next to a factory for so many years they won't be any worse off". So now we know.... actually  doing anything to improve the built environment is off the Planning agenda altogether