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Aston Road Update

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Aston Road Planning

There has been some uncertainty among residents concerning how much land the Church of England owns on the Aston Road site.

Here is the definitive answer, for which our thanks to David Mason, Director of Glebe and Buildings, Diocese of Oxford.

"The Diocese owns the field immediately to the south of Willis Road, and the two fields immediately to the east of Church End — see the plan attached — ours is the land hatched green."

Note from Editor:

The remaining plot of land (shown with blue hatching) is privately owned, and presumably would be purchased by Lightwood Strategic when and if they finally receive outline planning permission, for onward sale to a building company. (This is still subject to the Secretary of State's review, despite AVDC's rather spineless stand-down from defending the judicial review).

The Diocese of Oxford has made public declarations to reassure Haddenham residents that it would not sell its land to Lightwood Strategic.

If final planning permission is granted for the Aston Road / glebe land, it would be unrealistic to think that housing will not be built on part of the land owned by the Diocese. However, the Diocese of Oxford will not act as developer itself.

So what safeguards might Haddenham residents anticipate to prevent a serious development blot — i.e., one in serious contradiction of the desires we expressed in our Neighbourhood Plan? What is to prevent a third party immediately selling-on glebe land purchased from the Diocese of Oxford ... to Lightwood Strategic, for example?

According to David Mason, it is standard practice when the Diocese disposes of property (including land) to impose restrictive covenants, and these are imposed in such a way that any onward sale must impose the same covenants. These types of covenants are known as covenants that "run with the land", i.e. they are not personal to a particular purchaser.

The Diocese can dispose of its land at any point, but according to Mr Mason, it always takes a particular interest in what is proposed on its land AND to whom it is sold.

If the Secretary of State approves the planning appeal, the glebe (the green hatched area) and Plastow's land (the blue hatched area) will have an "outline" planning permission only. What this means is that the purchaser of the land must submit a "reserved matters" application, which provides the detailed design and layout of housing, roads, public open space etc.

Clearly, the Diocese of Oxford has no control over the Plastow's land, but David Mason states that "we will want to positively influence, before we sell, the detailed design of any proposals that affect the glebe."

When we asked Mr Mason whether or not the Diocese could prevent an onward disposal to Lightwood Strategic, his reply was this:

"As a charity, we are obliged to sell at market value, and we have already stated that we will not be selling our land to Lightwood. If our purchaser has already paid market value they will not want to sell for less than they have paid; why therefore would Lightwood want to pay more than the land is worth?"

This seems a fair point.

However, it may still be possible that, through economies of scale, Lightwood Strategic would ascribe greater than "market value" to the combined plots than any other developer might calculate the glebe land to be worth as a separate package.

It will hardly surprise Lightwood Strategic to learn that a significant number of Haddenham residents would be extremely unhappy to see that particular development company having a direct or indirect role in any development of the glebe land, even if the Secretary of State let's us down in the coming weeks.

Let us pray / keep our fingers crossed / do whatever works to encourage the Secretary of State to uphold the principles of 'localism' as expressed in our Neighbourhood Plan, by rejecting the planning appeal.

If you have your own comments or observations to offer — please feel free to add these to the dialogue currently ongoing in the Share & Chat forum. There are two threads:

1. The Glebe: to sell or not to sell
2. Aston Rd: land ownership.

(Please bear in mind that there is always a short delay after posting to the Share & Chat forum — for legal reasons we need to cast a quick eye over everything before publication)

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