Thame has lost employment floor space capable of hosting hundreds of jobs over recent years, as a result of a change to the law which promotes conversion of office premises to residential use. Since 2017 Thame Town Council has also been resisting development proposals for the former DAF UK / Kubota headquarters which breach the site’s protected status for employment use, as defined in policies within the Thame Neighbourhood Plan and South Oxfordshire Local Plan. In 2018 a planning application was submitted that would involve the demolition of the former DAF Truck headquarter building and the large warehouse building most recently occupied by Kubota UK Ltd. These were to be replaced with 129 homes, a dementia care unit and a small office building.
The application was refused by the District Council but during an appeal hearing held in March a Planning Inspector allowed the appeal on certain grounds. The Town Council, having taken expert legal advice, has decided to contest this decision.
A planning court claim has been lodged against the Inspector’s decision and the defendants in this matter have been served with the claim documents and have 21 days to respond. A judge will shortly decide if the grounds for review are arguable and if permission to proceed is granted, a hearing will be held later this year.
The current Covid-19 emergency has reinforced the reason for the policy protections for local industry and demonstrated the benefits in having businesses and industries offering a wide variety of skills, products and local employment opportunities for Thame residents.