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"Deeply Damaging"

How English Heritage described the development of The Elms in 2012.

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"Important Open Space"

How South Oxfordshire District Coucil classify The Elms

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Appeal Dismissed by Secretary of State

A decision issued on the 21st October 2019 by the Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State has dismissed Rectory Homes' appeal for their recent application for 78 care homes.  This is the highest authority in the land on planning and therefore this application cannot be appealed again.

The decision laid down 3 key points for dismissal, the full text of which can be seen here, with specific points referenced below:

  1. Proposed design for 78 units exceeds the number of units designated in the Thame Neighbourhood Plan ("no more than 45 dwellings"); (point 29)
  2. The proposed design "would not preserve and enhance the Thame Conservation Area and the setting of [The Elms House]"; (point 46)
  3. Fails to provide a proper contribution to affordable housing and doesn't "robustly justify a financial contribution instead of on-site provision"; (point 59)

Interestingly, paragraphs 63 to 67 state that the inspector analysed the 'fallback' for Rectory Homes if the appeal were to be dismissed.  Of course, this is the construction of 37 houses on the land which Rectory Homes received planning permission for in July 2015.  

In response to this, Rectory produced a 'Marketing Overview Report' written by Savills estate agents (who were appointed by Rectory to attempt to sell the land in the last couple of years at a reported £10million) indicating that the current proposal is not profitable enough any longer! This reinforces the argument that houses on land at The Elms are not required in Thame.  If they were, the development would be able to command prices that make it profitable but given the level of development across the rest of Thame, whilst house prices remain high, housing stock remains on the market for longer than these developers would ever have imagined.

Also, it's worth remembering that the land is essentially free to Rectory as they have sold off parts of the whole plot (May's Barn and The Elms house) for nearly £3million which far exceeds the amount paid for the whole plot back in 2010.  There is loads of profit to be made in building 37 houses where the land is free, it's just a case of greed.  Of course, the profitability of a development isn't really a reason to oppose it but now that Rectory are using this reason for trying to get this application through it appears to be fair game!

So, that's that then... probably not.  Simon Vickers, Chairman of Rectory Homes stated that he'll be back again and again with more applications until he get what he wants - we'll look forward to that next rivetting installment in this saga!

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