Earlier this month, the government announced funding to progress plans to provide 15,000 homes by 2031 at a new garden town around Didcot, Oxfordshire. Adrian Duffield is head of planning at South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils.
Q. When did you first realise there was an opportunity to create a garden town?
A. It really started in August. I was at a conference where I met an official from the Department for Communities and Local Government. It was clear that the department was looking for opportunities to create new settlements. DCLG officials came to meet me and my boss and told us we needed to put forward an expression of interest.
Q. What did that involve?
A. We had already conducted some work with the community in and around Didcott. They are up for positive change. We have identified an ambition for 15,000 new homes and new infrastructure. We identified a lot of asks to enable the creation of new homes and jobs. We are close to London but there is a lot of potential to improve transport links.
Q. How will this translate into planning policy?
A. We want to develop a masterplan for Didcot and the network of villages surrounding it. We have already agreed an extension to the town centre. We need the plan to coordinate the new development. We will update the evidence base around our existing local plans to inform the masterplan – we expect that process to take about nine months.
Q. What will the money add to the process?
A. We will be able to take on more planners to help develop the plan. I have appointed a project manager/lead officer for the project who will start shortly and we will have some more vacancies soon. We have a policy of taking on a lot of graduates and try to bring them on.