Angle Property Limited, who recently purchased the Kingsmead Business Park (including the DAF site), have launched a public consultation with the objective of securing community support for building a care home on the site. This land is designated under the Thame Neighbourhood Plan for retention as employment land so we wish to present some relevant background information to inform the community of the Town Council’s position.
Over the last 4/5 years the town has lost employment space, mostly through Permitted Development rules enabling conversion of offices to residential, equivalent to around 600 jobs; this at a time when population is increasing through new housebuilding. Any such loss of employment land threatens the green spaces around Thame.
When the DAF site was advertised for sale the invitation to bid made clear that under the Neighbourhood Plan it was protected for employment use, and Angle submitted their bid on that understanding. Angle also met with the Town Council before concluding their purchase, at which time they were left in no doubt regarding this condition.
Regrettably they now seem determined to undermine the Neighbourhood Plan, and the community’s wishes, by any means at their disposal and to turn the whole site into yet another unwanted windfall residential development. Firstly, they used central Government initiated Permitted Development Rights to secure permission to convert the DAF building to 45 flats. The Town Council contested their case, pointing out that such rights didn’t apply, but the Planning Authority went ahead and gave permission. They then amended that permission in an attempt to establish residential principles on the existing DAF car parking provision.
They are now proposing to build a Care Home on that parking area, which they presented to Thame Town Council two weeks ago. Members of the Town Council vehemently opposed this as it would incur further loss of employment space, and is potentially another means of establishing the principle for residential development of the whole site. Their proposals are clearly in contravention of the adopted Thame Neighbourhood Plan. They are now seeking to outflank your elected representatives by appealing directly for support in their efforts to breach the Neighbourhood Plan.
Care Homes have become the ‘go-to’ option for developers as they are excused from providing any affordable housing element and are zero-rated with regard to developer contributions towards local infrastructure. Various separate Care provision schemes have been proposed for Thame in the last 2/3 years, comprising more than 300 units. There is currently no identified need for additional Care Home provision within Thame but, if such a need does exist, then the Neighbourhood Plan revision will seek an evidential and quantified case and will engage fully
with the community who will have a strong voice in determining the most appropriate model and location.
Similarly, if the new SODC Local Plan imposes more housebuilding on Thame, it will be up to the community, through the Neighbourhood Plan, to determine how and where to fulfil that requirement. We do not need developers telling us what Thame needs, motivated more by their aim to maximise their investment returns rather than any commitment to what is best for the town and our community. The last thing we need at this time is to lose yet more employment land to residential, especially as that employment land would then have to be replaced on greenfield sites. Our Neighbourhood Plan vision statement was, and will remain, to retain the character of Thame as a true market town and the Neighbourhood Plan revision process will engage fully with the community in determining how that should be best achieved. We cannot allow developers to turn Thame into a dormitory commuter town with no heart.
Angle Property Limited have invited comments and opinion on their proposals and we hope that the community of Thame will respond appropriately.
For further information, interviews and images, please contact Thame Town Council on 01844 212833 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For all the latest news and events, sign up to the newsletter at www.thametowncouncil.gov.uk.