Two councils to pay Merton College for “unreasonable” homes bid

Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire County Council have been instructed to pay Merton College’s appeal costs after an inspector deemed they acted unreasonably over a planning application.

In July 2021, Merton College applied to build 540 homes on farmland to the west and north of Yarnton village, alongside a community work hub, two community woodland areas, playing pitches, a local natural reserve and an elderly care space. 

The plan was part of the 4,400 new homes allocated by the Cherwell District Council in Kidlington, Yarnton, and Begbroke to meet Oxford’s housing needs.

Residents have raised concerns that the application did not take into account “existing flooding issues” 

In September 2023, Merton College appealed after the Cherwell District Council failed to make a decision. On November 2, the Council’s Planning Committee rejected the application, citing flood risks. 

Robert Davis, a representative of Merton College, said at the November meeting that “It is not the responsibility of any applicant to address pre-existing issues.”

Planning inspector Jonathan Bore said the development would provide “much-needed homes” to meet the city’s needs and that the councils behaved and handled the application unreasonably. 

He also found Cherwell Council showed a “slowness and lack of engagement” and its action has caused the College “unnecessary or wasted expense.” This included objecting to grant access to replace the playing fields for the William Fletcher Primary School in Yarnton. 

The exact costs will be settled at a later date. 

A Cherwell Council spokesman said: “This appeal decision relates to a site allocated for residential development in the council’s Local Plan. Officers are considering the inspector’s decisions closely.”

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesperson said: “The county council is currently considering the inspector’s decisions.”

Image Credit: Sailko via Wikimedia Commons

Image Description: Merton college, Oxford, front quadrangle