In the run up to the holiday period Nurton Developments launched a new website.
However, there’s little cause for celebration. In fact they proclaim “a promotion agreement has been completed in relation to this 24 acre site to the south of Didcot town centre.”
Unlike Grainger, Nurton do not own the site they just have an option based on securing planning permission. Like Grainger they have no idea where their site is. It is, of course, not in Didcot but in the parish of East Hagbourne.
The area they indicate is considerably larger than the site they have previously indicated they were looking to develop.
Nurton goes on to state: “the land is greenfield but not in the Green Belt”. This is strictly true but at the same time absolutely economical with the truth. The land is greenfield, but it is also grade one ‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land. And whilst it is true that the site it not in the Green Belt, the indicated site now extends all the way to the boundary with land designated as the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is reasonable to assume that they consider these significant environmental factors merely to be inconvenient truths. And no doubt their planning application will trumpet their environmental credentials.
Nurton wrap up by warning us that “a Masterplan is currently being worked up based on the outcome of various surveys which have been undertaken.” However, the various surveys do not seem to have included a review of the democratically adopted local plan (Core Strategy 2012) that explicitly excludes this site from development; a reading of the Didcot Garden Town bid that indicates current and future planning policy and explicit identifies this site as a ‘green lung’ for Didcot; or a survey of public opinion that will show, as with Grainger, a total lack of community support for any development in this area. Much like Grainger, I suppose they don’t really give a fig about any of this.
Let’s be under no illusion, neither Nurton nor Grainger build houses. Neither Nurton nor Grainger give a stuff about solving any housing crisis. They hold ‘strategic land investments’. This means they either buy or take options on cheap agricultural land, made cheaper because it is explicitly excluded from development. They then work the system to achieve outline planning consent for housing. They then sell the land at a price hugely inflated by the planning permission to a house builder. They are then never seen again once they’ve carted their fortunes out of Oxfordshire and back to Birmingham or Newcastle.
SODC can no longer ignore the fact that East Hagbourne and Southern Didcot is under serious and concerted attack from speculative developers. It is in their power to stop the attack. They will have lost all moral authority if they chose not to defend the plan but support this speculative pillage.