Earlier this month, Cherwell District Council announced plans to simplify the planning process to encourage the development of up to 1,900 self build homes on a site benefiting from outline planning permission, in what it claims would be a pioneering move for the UK. Alex Keen is a development management team leader for the council and is working on the preparation of a local development order (LDO) for the site.
Q. When did you first get involved in this process?
A. I first became involved around the end of March this year. It was an exciting albeit challenging time to become involved as the council had already committed significant time and resources to realising the vision of delivering the largest self-build community in the UK.
Q. What is the history of the site?
A. The site is a Ministry of Defence base. The council purchased the site last year and a development company was set up with the aim of promoting self build homes on the site. An outline consent is in place for the entire site which will see the creation of a mixed-use redevelopment including an area for employment uses. The LDO relates specifically to the first, residential, phase.
Q. What is the reason for a local development order?
A. Primarily the self-build nature of the development – the development company sees it as a very important part of the scheme. It wants to make it as easy as possible for people to build a new home – and in theory an LDO should help them do that by simplifying the planning process.
The council intends to adopt the LDOs in phases – there are going to be around 200 plots covered by the first one. The idea is that we learn from experience and adapt the LDO for future phases.
Q.What are the constraints going to be on development using the LDO?
A. We are still working through that. The main requirement is that they should comply with a design code and a masterplan that is required to be submitted and approved as a condition of the outline consent. There will also be requirements relating to heights, external materials, distances between neighbouring properties, parking, and overlooking.
Q. What have been the main challenges you have faced so far?
A. There were challenges in terms of how you format the LDO and tie it to the outline consent. There needs to be a balance struck between keeping it simple and flexible for plot purchasers, but at the same time providing certainty about the design quality of development and protecting neighbour amenity.
We also had to decide whether we framed it as a guidance document or tried to replicate the GDPO. We have gone with the latter.