Agenda item

Public Question Time

Members of the public are invited to put questions to the Chair and Executive Councillors on any matters within the powers and duties of the Executive, subject to the exclusions set out in the Code of Practice.  (Questions must be submitted no later than 30 minutes prior to the commencement of the meeting on the card provided.  These are available at the meeting and at local libraries and information centres. You can also submit via the Council’s website at


Members of the public were invited to put questions to the Executive on any matters within its powers and duties, subject to the exclusions set out in the Code of Practice.


Six questions were submitted.


The first question asked what assurances the Council could give that the traffic generated by the potential 850 new homes on the site of the former Woodford Aerodrome would not blight the area.


The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that in the event that the SEMMMS road scheme was in place the additional capacity this would create would allow for development of 850 houses on the Woodford site without creating significant increases in congestion within the area.  Local access and safety issues would need to be resolved as part of negotiations for any planning application.  In the event that the SEMMMS road was not in place the applicant would have to demonstrate that sufficient capacity could be created on the local road network to accommodate the traffic without worsening existing levels of congestion, and that this would prove a challenge.


The second question asked whether the proposed Woodford Supplementary Planning Document adequately addressed the need to provide additional local facilities and amenities, including assisted or sheltered accommodation, given the likely scale of development on the former Woodford Aerodrome site.


The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that planning legislation made clear the tests that contributions from developers must meet to be considered reasonable.  They must be necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms; directly related to the development; and fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development. The Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) made clear that, where it is the best way of making the development acceptable in planning terms and it meets the other tests, enhanced provision of community facilities (including, potentially, the enhancement of existing facilities) could be included within such contributions.


The Executive Councillor further added that there was contradictory evidence as to the need, or otherwise, for new NHS healthcare facilities in the Woodford area. The SPD clearly set out that this matter would need to be reviewed in the light of responsibility for commissioning new facilities passing from the current Primary Care Trusts to new GP-led commissioning groups and that the Council was only able to respond to the best evidence available.


With respect to housing types and tenures, the Executive Councillor replied that the SPD clearly sets out that the residential element of any redevelopment scheme should comprise a mixture of dwelling types, sizes and tenures.  This explicitly included the provision of accommodation for older people, as set out in paragraph 5.15 of the SPD amongst other places.


The third question asked whether executive councillors had read and understood all the comments submitted as part of the consultation on the Woodford Supplementary Planning Document, and the answers provided by officers, and if not, asking whether consideration of the Document should be deferred.


The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that all executive councillors would not usually read all the feedback received as part of a consultation of this type, but that because of the importance of the Woodford Supplementary Planning Document, members of the Executive had been regularly briefed on the development of the Document and the issues that had arisen from the consultation.


The fourth question asked whether executive councillors had visited the Woodford site in the last 12 months to assess the impact of development on the Woodford community.


The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that the proposed Supplementary Planning Document was not a development proposal but a policythat would guide a decision on a planning application; therefore it was not as necessary for executive councillors to have visited the site. He added that as the relevant executive portfolio holder he had visited the site so that he could brief other members of the Executive.


The Leader of the Council further replied that a number of members of the Executive had visited the site over a number of years and were familiar with it and the surrounding area, and that the Executive were well aware of the issues posed by the potential development of the Woodford site.


A number of executive councillors indicated they had visited the site.


The fifth question asked whether the 2 hectares proposed within the Woodford Supplementary Planning Document for employment use on the Woodford site was unnecessarily restrictive given its historic employment use.


The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that there was no legitimate planning basis upon which to identify a specific area of land for employment uses and that the only requirement came from the Core Strategy, requiring that a mixed residential and employment redevelopment must “maintain a significant employment presence in the area and the wider borough”.


Following Homes & Communities Agency guidance the 2 hectares identified in the Supplementary Planning Document, along with the expected local centre uses and the area retained for use by Oxford Aviation had the potential to create over 1,000 jobs. The same guidance suggested that approximately 500 jobs would be created in the wider area as a result of the residential element of development.


Requiring a redevelopment to provide as many jobs as the aerodrome did at its peak was considered unreasonable given that the Core Strategy clearly envisaged and allows for a significant part of any redevelopment to be for non-employment uses. Taking this into account it was considered that a potential 1,500 jobs was not unreasonable.


It would be a matter for any planning application to demonstrate that it met this requirement.


The sixth question asked whether the Executive were aware of the creation of Woodford United, a local community organisation that brought together expertise across a range of fields, including legal, planning, architecture and engineering, whose objectives were to ensure a development solution at the Woodford Aerodrome site that was in keeping with the existing community.


The Executive Councillor (Economic Development & Regeneration) replied that he was aware of the group, and that the engagement with the group had been useful in the development of the Woodford Supplementary Planning Document.