Agenda and draft minutes

Oxfordshire Growth Board Scrutiny Panel
Thursday, 21 March 2019 6.30 pm

Venue: Old Library, Oxford Town Hall OX1 1BX

Contact: Kevin Jacob, Growth Board Democratic Services Officer 01235 422191  Email: kevin.jacob@southandvale.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

30.

Apologies for absence and substitutes; declarations of interest; Chair's announcements

Minutes:

Apologies were received from:

 

Councillor Ben Mabbett, Vale of the White Horse District Council 

Councillor Nick Carter, Oxfordshire County Council

Councillor Sean Gaul, Cherwell District Council

Councillor Debby Hallett, Vale of the White Horse District Council

Councillor Chris Palmer, Vale of White Horse District Council, (substituted by Councillor Sandy Lovatt)

Councillor Sean Woodcock, Cherwell District Council

 

At this point it was noted that the meeting was not quorate as a member from Cherwell District Council was not present.  It was agreed that the meeting would continue informally until quorate which occurred at 18:45.

 

There were no declarations of interest.

 

31.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 129 KB

Recommendation: To approve the minutes of the previous meeting held on 24 January 2019, (attached).  

Minutes:

This item was taken after the public participation item when the meeting becoming quorate.

 

The minutes of the meeting held on 24 January 2019 were approved as a correct record of the meeting.

 

32.

Public Participation

The terms of reference of the Panel state:

 

Members of the public may address meetings of the Scrutiny Panel, where notice is given to the secretariat no later than 4.00pm on the last working day before the day of the meeting.

 

The Chair will have discretion to manage the public participation procedure as they see appropriate, including rejecting frivolous, defamatory or offensive questions and managing the time afforded to public addresses.

 

Notice of a wish to address the meeting, including the subject of the address or the full question to be asked, must be sent to

 

democratic.services@oxfordshiregrowthboard.org

 

by 4.00pm on Wednesday 20 March 2019.

The Chair’s decision will be final.

 

Minutes:

The Panel heard two questions and one statement from members of the public.

 

Dr Eugenie Buchan representing Elsfield Residents Group, asked the following questions:

 

‘Tonight, the Scrutiny Panel is looking at a proposal to commission a new review of the Oxford Green Belt. According to the text, you will carry out the assessment 'in a holistic manner alongside the development of a strategic framework for growth up to 2050: it will ‘inform decision making and outline a Green Belt appropriate for the mid-21st Century'.

 

It is logical for the Growth Board to be pre-occupied with growth. And indeed, in this consultation, nearly all the topic papers including the Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report, stress the growth ambitions of Local Plan 2050, not least the goal of building, by the mid-2030s, a hundred thousand new homes with required infrastructure and motorways to support even more housing, if the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway goes ahead.

 

But the purpose of our planning system is not to promote growth per se, but to contribute to the achievement of sustainability which, traditionally is defined as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.  

 

 For future generations the greatest challenge will be Climate Change and its rate of change is accelerating. On Tuesday the head of the Environment Agency, a seasoned diplomat who has been trained to measure his words, warned that the country could run out of water within 25 years and that England would reach the "jaws of death - the point at which, unless we take action to change things, we will not have enough water to supply our needs".

 

What would be the point of planning for a hundred thousand new houses in Oxfordshire if we do not have enough water and other natural resources to sustain them through to the end of the century?

 

 So I have three inter-related questions about the purpose of Local Plan 2050 and the Green Belt Review:

 

a)            It seems to me that the primary purpose of your Green Belt review is to assess how much of it can be urbanised. But in light of climate change, do you agree/disagree that we need to rethink the function of green belts?  For example, would your review and the Sustainability Appraisal score the five functions of the Green Belt in terms of capacity to protect biodiversity, a carbon neutral economy, air quality and water conservation?

 

b)            Do you agree/disagree that LP 2050 needs to prioritise Climate Change rather than ‘growth’ in order to deliver long term sustainability in Oxfordshire?

 

c)             Do you agree/disagree that to counter the threat of Climate Change, local authorities need to come together both to lobby central government and formulate specific measures to incentivise resource conservation, restoration of degraded ecosystems and rapid transition to a zero-carbon emission economy? 

 

I trust that the Growth Board and the District Councils recognise the urgency of Climate Change and the central part that the Green Belt can and does  ...  view the full minutes text for item 32.

33.

Oxfordshire Plan 2050 - update on project plan and Green Belt pdf icon PDF 118 KB

Purpose: To consider an update on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 (JSSP) project plan and the Green Belt.

 

Information: Programme report and Green Belt (attached)

 

Recommendation: The Scrutiny Panel note and comment upon the report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Giles Hughes, Head of Planning and Strategic Housing – West Oxfordshire District Council, presented a paper which set out a programme to produce Oxfordshire Plan 2050 (JSSP) and work to develop an evidence base for the Regulation 18 Part 2 consultations. He also introduced a separate paper on the Green Belt and Oxfordshire Plan 2050. This followed a request from the Panel to receive further information on these issues at its previous meeting.

 

The following points were highlighted to the Panel:

 

·           Ongoing discussions were taking place with Highways England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, (MHCLG) with the regard to the impact of a consultation on a potential OxCam Expressway and the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 consultation.  The discussions had been positive, and it was considered that the relationships between the two documents were understood better, although the discussions remained work in progress.

·           The detailed workstreams which would support the Regulation 18 Part 2 document. Many of these would be new commissions from experts in their field.

·           As part of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 process, it was an appropriate time for discussions to take place on the impact of the Plan on the Green Belt.

 

During discussions, significant concerns were expressed that the timing between the Regulation 18 Part 2 Oxfordshire Plan 2050 consultation and HM Government’s consultation on the OxCam Expressway were not aligned. The potential routes for the Expressway would have a significant impact on the choice of housing sites, and this needed to be recognised by the Growth Board.

 

With regard to the agenda paper on the Green Belt, the main points raised in discussion were as follows:

 

·           Commitment to the principle of the continued protection of the Green Belt.

·           While helpful, the map of the Oxford Green Belt was not an up to date reflection of its current location, nor did it reflect the existing allocation of development sites. There was also the need to reflect and consider Green Belt locations across the county as a whole;

·           Although the Panel recognised the status of the Green Belt, development had always been possible within its boundaries. Some members felt that the role of the Green Belt was not to prevent all development, but instead to constrain urban sprawl. The challenge is, therefore, to facilitate public transport corridors and encourage development where it could be most sustainable. The focus of the suggested questions within the paper was, therefore, incorrect.

·           Issues such as natural capital, access to open space and the positive health impact of Green Belt were also topics that needed to be taken into consideration as part of any review.  The Panel noted that Officers had to work with the published NPPF criteria around Green Belts, but there was scope to interpret it in different ways, for instance around environmental quality and climate change.

·           Oxfordshire remained a largely agricultural county and this needed to be reflected in the continued protection of the Green Belt as a key principle. The continued maintenance of Areas of Outstanding  ...  view the full minutes text for item 33.

34.

Scrutiny Panel response to Oxfordshire Plan 2050 (JSSP) consultation pdf icon PDF 431 KB

Purpose: To consider a response to the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 consultation from the Scrutiny Panel.

 

Information: Scrutiny Panel individual councillor responses (attached).

 

Recommendation: That the Scrutiny Panel discuss and agree a formal response to the consultation.   

Minutes:

The Scrutiny Panel considered the agreement of an approved formal response to the Section 18 consultation for the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 (JSSP) consultation.

 

The Chairman thanked members of the Panel who had submitted individual responses to consultation questions as set out in the report. He commented that it was very important for the Panel’s final consultation response to capture as many points as possible, and that in considering specific responses to individual questions there were several general themes that he felt should be included:

 

·         Climate change and environmental aspirations

·         Housing numbers as part of the growth agenda – how to create a different evidence base; expectations around the need for growth in light of the Joint Declaration on the Oxford to Cambridge Arc; and the impression given by HM Government that the Arc was an economic growth area. 

·         A greater emphasis on prioritising opportunities for clean energy generation (e.g. wind farms), in addition to the promotion of energy efficiency. 

 

A summary of the additional points made as part of the discussion of the consultation questions is set out below:

 

·         Q7 – Natural and built environment context – concerns over the availability of water in the future to support levels of planned development, and the protection of water resources such as the possibility of a reservoir near Abingdon.

·         Q7 – Natural and built environment context - the status of the Blenheim Estate as a World Heritage site needed to be reflected and given due prominence within the plan. 

·         Q10 – Transport and connectivity context – rail networks in Oxfordshire including the new Oxford Parkway to Marylebone link had been successful which called into question the need for an Oxford-Cambridge expressway. Not enough emphasis on train travel and too much emphasis on car travel

·         Q11 – Broadband speeds were still very low in many parts of Oxfordshire 

·         Q17 – Aspirations 5 – Improve connectivity and movement – it was not felt that technologies would have advanced to such a point by 2050 that the rush hour commute would be a thing of the past.

·         Concerns as to whether sufficient account had been taken of both existing population growth and the potential impact upon this of development.

 

RESOLVED: That given the requirement to submit the response by the end of Monday 25 March the Growth Board Scrutiny Officer should compile the final wording in consultation with the Panel Chair.

 

35.

Affordable Housing Sub-Group - update on affordable housing performance 2018/2019 pdf icon PDF 89 KB

Purpose: To consider an update on affordable housing delivery from 2018/2019 to date.

 

Information: Report attached.

 

Recommendation: To discuss and note the response.

Minutes:

The Panel considered a report as set out in the Agenda providing an update on affordable housing delivery in 2017/2018 and an estimated performance for 2018/2019, by district and city council.  It was noted that councils set annual targets for affordable housing delivery. These were expressed as numeric totals and included both the proportion of affordable housing on sites secured through planning policy, and sites delivered exclusively for affordable housing by either registered providers or local housing delivery companies.

 

Councillor Turner expressed disappointment that Oxford City Council had not achieved its affordable housing target for 2017/2018.

 

After further discussion it was also felt that it would be beneficial for the Panel to receive a report on projected targets.

 

RESOLVED:

1)     That the report be noted

2)     That information on projected targets for years post 2018/2019 by district be included in future update reports.

 

36.

Growth Board response to Scrutiny Panel recommendations - January 2019 meeting pdf icon PDF 78 KB

 

Purpose: To consider the Growth Board’s response to the recommendations to the Board from the Scrutiny Panel meeting on 24 January 2019.

 

Information:  response attached

 

Recommendation: To discuss and note the response.

 

Minutes:

The Panel noted the Growth Board’s responses to the recommendations from the meeting on 24 January 2019 as set out in the Agenda. Councillor Gant updated the Panel on his attendance at the Growth Board on 29 January 2019.

 

With regard to the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Part 1 consultation process and awareness events, officers were asked to provide an update with specific reference to any presentations made in schools. The Panel had previously expressed concerns around levels of engagement in the consultation process by young people.

 

Giles Hughes responded that he could not give an exact number of school specific presentations, but that overall it was felt that the consultation events to date, including the bus tours to towns within the county, had worked well. Lessons around optimal settings would be learned as some locations had enjoyed better attendance than others. The number of people making comments and registering to take part in the process at this early stage was encouraging. Further, in addition to the number of visits to physical events, it was interesting to note that traffic on the Growth Board website had increased – particularly around various publicised events. This indicated that people were finding out more and engaging in the work of the Growth Board and Growth Deal.

 

It was felt that it would be useful for the Panel to receive feedback arising from the events.

 

RESOLVED: That the report be noted.

 

37.

Oxfordshire Growth Board papers 26 March 2019

 

Purpose: To consider reports and matters on the agenda for the Oxfordshire Growth Board meeting on 26 March 2019.

 

Information: Agenda and reports published on 18 March Separately from this Agenda

 

 

Recommendations: To make any recommendations or comments to the Growth Board.

 

Minutes:

The Panel discussed the Agenda and reports published for the Oxfordshire Growth Board meeting on 26 March. 

 

Prior to the consideration of individual agenda items, the Panel commented that it shared the concerns expressed by the previous public speakers around the high number of verbal items on the Growth Board Agenda and wished to record its dissatisfaction. It noted that only two written reports were available to the Panel prior to its meeting, and that while a supplementary Growth Board agenda had been issued shortly before, this did not allow for enough prior consideration. In addition, the lack of a forward programme for the Growth Board and lack of advisory sub-group notes made it more difficult for the Panel to undertake its role in reviewing the work of the Board and holding it to account.

 

In their discussion about the issues raised by individual agenda items, the Panel commented that:

 

·           Item 6: Appointment of Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Growth Board for 2019/2020. The Panel commented that it would have wished to have understood the rationale and process to be followed by the Growth Board in considering the appointment.

·           Item 7: Appointment of a representative to the Oxford to Cambridge Arc. The Panel commented that as no information had been supplied with the item it was not possible for it to gain an understanding of the role and the process and rationale for appointment.  Given the likely importance of the role this was disappointing, and it was felt more information was needed.

 

RESOLVED:

1)    That the Growth Board be requested to have a clear work programme. In addition, items on the Growth Board agenda should be concise and substantial and also be supported by reports/information on all items which are published along with the substantive agenda. This includes update notes from the three advisory Sub-Groups ensuring that the reports are produced well in advance of the Scrutiny Panel meeting and that the Growth Board minutes including any written responses to public questions.

2)    That the Growth Board be requested to provide background information on Ox-Cam Arc Executive Committee and the role of the representative to the Committee including basis of appointment.

3)      That the Growth Board be requested to revisit the recommendation on structured communication between the Growth Board and council’s members considering member reports of having received incorrect and incomplete information.

38.

Work Programme for the Scrutiny Panel - March 2019 pdf icon PDF 26 KB

Purpose: To discuss the work programme for the Panel submitted for consideration by the Panel’s scrutiny officer. Members of the Panel are encouraged to suggest potential scrutiny subjects for future consideration.    

 

Information: Work programme (attached)

 

Recommendation: To agree the draft work programme as set out and to note that other relevant items may be added to agendas at the request of officers in consultation with the Chair.

 

Minutes:

The Panel discussed its work programme as set out in the Agenda and the following additional items were agreed.

 

·         An up to date Oxfordshire Green Belt Map which includes already developed areas and existing allocation of sites for development.

·         Report on Air Quality Action Plans being adopted by each local authority

·         That information on projected affordable housing targets for years post 2018/2019 by district be included in future update reports.

·         Health services and Green transport and safety (Cycle routes) vision in Oxon Plan 2050 as growth is delivered.

·         Presentation or report from the Growth Deal infrastructure team. 

 

 

39.

Dates of meetings

Purpose: To note the dates for meetings of this Panel:

 

Scrutiny Panel

Growth Board

Thurs 30 May 6.30pm

4 June 2pm

Thurs 25 July 6.30pm

30 July 2pm

 

Meetings of the scrutiny panel to be held in Oxford Town Hall.

 

*if no rooms available in Town Hall venue will change

 

Minutes:

The Panel noted the dates of meetings as:

 

Scrutiny Panel

30 May 6.30 pm

25 July 6.30 pm

 

All meetings are to be held in Oxford Town Hall.