Agenda and minutes

Oxfordshire Growth Board Scrutiny Panel, (now The Future Oxfordshire Partnership Scrutiny Panel) - Thursday, 23 January 2020 6.30 pm

Venue: Old Library, Oxford Town Hall, St Aldates, Oxford, OX1 1BX

Contact: Kevin Jacob, Growth Board Democratic Services Officer 

No. Item


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


Apologies for absence were submitted from:


Councillor Nick Carter, Oxfordshire County Council

Councillor Peter Dragonetti, South Oxfordshire District Council, (substitute by Councillor Jo Robb)

Craig Simmons, Oxford City Council, (substituted by Councillor Dick Wolff)

Councillor Ted Fenton, West Oxfordshire District Council

Councillor Richard Webber, Oxfordshire County Council (substituted by Councillor John Howson)

Councillor Lucinda Wing, Cherwell District Council


Declarations of Interest

There were no declarations of interest.


Chair’s Announcements

With the Panel’s permission, the Chair stated that he intended to change the order of the Agenda to consider item 5 Update from Councillor James Mills, Chair of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 sub-group and item 6.a Oxfordshire Plan 2050 sub-group update prior to Item 3: Public Participation.


Minutes of previous meeting pdf icon PDF 149 KB

To approve the minutes of the meeting held on 19 September 2019.


The minutes of the meeting held on 19 September 2020 were approved as a correct record.


Matters arising from the minutes:

Members commented that although ‘Affordable Housing’ was a commonly used term each of the Oxfordshire District Councils had their own individual definitions and there was local variation. It was agreed that further information should be circulated to the Panel.


Public participation

Members of the public may address meetings of the Scrutiny Panel where notice is given to the secretariat no later than 4.00pm on Wednesday 22 January 2020. Notice of the subject of the address or the full question to be asked must be sent to The Chair will have discretion to manage the public participation procedure as they see appropriate.


The Panel heard two questions from members of the public.


1.            Sue Haywood on behalf of Need not Greed Oxfordshire had submitted a written question which referred to the notes of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Sub-Group held on 14 November 2019 relating to a presentation the Sub-Group had received in respect of influencers on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050. The notes acknowledged the influence of several regional and national strategies on the spatial scenarios and scale of growth within which the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 would subsequently have to work within. Two observations were highlighted.


Firstly, concern how, and with what specification, the brief for testing different spatial and scale of growth scenarios was being developed as it was probable some ‘influencers’ could predetermine and constrain the options available. The Scrutiny Panel had previously requested greater information and transparency and was now urged to ask the Growth Board for the opportunity to comment on the brief for testing given the long-term significance on Oxfordshire's councils of the outcomes. 


Secondly, she said that given the overwhelming vote by the Panel in favour an earlier recommendation that Highways England attend the November 2019 Growth Board the Panel was asked to revisit the recommendation again and press for a plan of how and when the Growth Board might have a collective position on the issue of the Expressway.


In discussion, members of the Panel commented that it was in everyone’s interest for HM Government to clarify the future of the Expressway as soon as possible and that the Growth Board should continue to seek the attendance of Highways England at a Growth Board meeting. The concerns expressed within the question regarding transparency of growth scenario briefings for the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 and risk of those influencers impacting on the preparation of the Plan was also acknowledged by the Panel.


The Chair commented that he would communicate these comments to the Growth Board as part of his report to them.


2.    Peter Collins on behalf of the Campaign for Protection of Rural England, (CPRE) Oxfordshire had submitted a written question which referred to the review of the Growth Board and in general supported the direction of travel, particularly as set out in the new Common Purpose.   CPRE agreed that at least some of the problems of the Growth Board, in their view, were connected to issues around communication and that improvements would be welcomed and drew attention to the publication of the review report 24 hours before the deadline to register questions for the Scrutiny Panel. CPRE disagreed that ‘almost all criticisms that were received of the Growth Board could be traced back to a cause of ineffective communications’ and felt that this had been an insult those who had been trying to engage with, influence and challenge the Growth Board’s activities and lets Growth Board members off the hook in terms of any thorough assessment of its strengths and weaknesses.


Mr Collins expressed the view that the Growth Board had been instrumental in allocating the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 26.


Growth Board response to Scrutiny Panel Recommendations 19 September 2019 pdf icon PDF 88 KB

To consider the Growth Board’s response to the recommendations to the Board from the Scrutiny Panel meeting on 19 September 2019.




The Panel noted the Growth Board’s response to recommendations from the meeting on 19 September 2019 as set out in the Agenda.  In presenting the report the Chair highlighted several of the Growth Board’s responses and invited comment:


·           Second paragraph of the response relating to Recommendation 1. The Chair queried whether the Panel agreed with the response that the raising of green construction standards was limited by national building and industry constraints.

·           Response to Recommendation 2. The Chair referred to part of the Growth Board’s response that members of the Growth Board expressed their preference for the progression of rail, cycle, pedestrian and public transport options over car journeys. He suggested that a timetable was required to demonstrate the direction of travel from car journeys.

·           Response to Recommendation 3, third paragraph, the need for clarity on the route of the Oxfordshire to Cambridge Expressway.

·           Response to Recommendation 6. The Chair commented that whilst the Panel had expressed the firm view that the Oxfordshire to Cambridge Expressway would be in contradiction to the environmental ambitions of local authorities and that this should be communicated to the media, the Growth Board had declined and instead recognised that the Government’s plans for an expressway were ‘likely to present challenges for meeting local environmental ambitions. The Chair stated that this was a dilution of the Panel’s recommendation and it was agreed that that he should highlight this in his report to the Growth Board.


In further discussion, members referred to local examples of ‘climate positive’ housing developments within the Vale of Whitehorse District Council area which had the potential to sequester carbon. It was also felt that HM Government should be encouraged to apply high environmental standards to all publicly funded buildings, not only housing, if its climate ambitions were to be realised.


A general point was also made that it was felt that several responses to the Panel’s recommendations had included an unnecessary level of detail and that this should be relayed to the Board.


Update from Councillor James Mills, Chair of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Advisory Sub-Group

The Scrutiny Panel agreed to invite the Chairs of the Growth Board Advisory Sub-Groups on a rotating basis. Councillor James Mills, Chair of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Sub-Group, has been invited to attend this meeting to give an update. 


The Chair welcomed Councillor James Mills, Chair of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Advisory Sub-Group and member of the Oxfordshire Growth Board, to the meeting. Councillor Mills highlighted several points to the Panel by way of introduction as follows:


·           There had been continued focus by the Oxfordshire Plan Team on engagement with stakeholders and organisations covered by the statutory duty to cooperate. This had included informal workshops which had taken place or were planned with:

o   Voice of Oxfordshire Youth, (VOXY)

o   Residents panels, (including gathering views of the public’s views and aspirations for the future).

o   Professional networking groups representing ethnic minorities.

·           Further engagement was planned in respect of the next formal stage of consultation including the development briefs designed to be think pieces and though provoking around the options available. The themes covered would include how the residents of the county might live and work in the future and critique was invited.

·           Meetings with duty to cooperate bodies were being scheduled including neighbouring local authorities to address and consider strategic and cross boundary issues.

·           Commission and testing of technical pieces of work connected to the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 evidence base. This included establishment of cross authority and stakeholder steering groups and the drawing together of gathered evidence including consultation responses to identify and test Plan options and policies. Issues around health and natural capital would be included.

·           The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 team remained mindful of the opportunity to learn lessons from other joint spatial plans.

·           Production of the Oxfordshire Plan would require a significant level of technical work to inform the evidence base which in turn would start to influence and shape the policy options of the Plan and be used to test the various options. This would add to the evidence already available through the existing district council local plans although in many cases this would need to be supplemented by additional work across the county to ensure the period up to 2050 was covered.

·           Work to develop various appraisals including transport was out to tender.

·           Next steps included the launch of the formal Regulation 18 Part 2 consultation in the summer of 2020.  This required the consideration and agreement of a consultation document by each constituent council.


In discussion, the Panel explored how the revised timetable to produce the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 related to the timetable for the proposed Oxfordshire to Cambridge Expressway as this would have a material impact on choices for the locations of growth within the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, and decision around how that growth could be supported by infrastructure.  Councillor Mills indicated that the revised timetable had been informed by the issue of the future of the Expressway.  It had been expected initially that a report on the technical route was to be published by Highways England at the end of last year, but this had been delayed by the General Election. No further updates had been provided, but the point would continue to be stressed to HM Government that this information was  ...  view the full minutes text for item 28.


Oxfordshire Growth Board papers 28 January 2020


To consider reports and matters on the agenda for the Oxfordshire Growth Board meeting on 28 January 2020. Reports are set out under the subheadings below.




Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Sub-Group update pdf icon PDF 204 KB

To receive an update from the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Sub-Group. Summary notes from the meetings held on 17 October 2019 and 14 November 2019 are attached.


Additional documents:


The Panel acknowledged the notes of the meetings of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Advisory Sub-Group held on 17 October 2019 and 14 November 2019 but did not discuss then further as they had been referred to as part of the earlier update from Councillor Mills.


Oxfordshire Local Plans Update pdf icon PDF 103 KB

To note progress in adopting Local Plans for each of the five Districts. 


The Panel noted a report to the Growth Board which set out current progress towards Local Plans adoption across the county.


Growth Board Review pdf icon PDF 266 KB

To review and comment on the report to the Growth Board setting out the findings of the review approved on 24 September 2019.

Additional documents:


The Panel considered a report to the Growth Board presented by Bev Hindle, Growth Board Director and Stefan Robinson, Growth Board Manager which set out the results of the review undertaken as part of the Growth Board’s role and functions, together with initial findings and recommendations for the Board’s consideration.


The following points were highlighted to the Panel:


·           There had been around 250 responses to the public consultation – in addition to engagement workshops with the public and councillors. The appendix to the report provided a flavour of the responses received (these had been linked back to the report and its proposals).

·           The review had related to the Growth Board, not the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.

·           As part of the review, detailed and in-depth discussions had taken place which indicated that whilst there were concerns around areas that the Growth Board could change or things it could do better, a clear output was that it was important not to lose sight of the opportunities for Oxfordshire’s councils and their partners working together collaboratively.

·           A two-phased approach was recommended, with the initial changes (including revised Terms of Reference for the Board) being brought back to the Growth Board by June 2020. Longer-term changes relating to wider engagement would be reported back to the Growth Board in the Autumn.


The Chair thanked Bev Hindle and Stefan Robinson for a carefully considered and well written report. In its discussion about the issues raised the Panel commented:


·           That the Scrutiny Panel has been established for a relatively short period of time and was generally felt to be working well.

·           A range of views were expressed, but on balance it was felt that the current membership of three members per authority was appropriate given lower attendance levels and the importance of maintaining broad geographical and politically balanced representation across the county.

·           It should not be mandatory that a council’s nominated members include a Chair of one their Overview and Scrutiny committees. The Panel was not averse to council’s making their own decision to appoint their respective Scrutiny Chairs to the panel and acknowledged the benefits this could bring in terms of connectivity between the Growth Board Scrutiny Panel and individual council scrutiny committees.

·           A renewed focus of scrutiny of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal as well as the opportunity to undertake more in-depth overview and scrutiny reviews was welcomed.

·           Several members of the Panel commented that the report should go further with regards to zero carbon development. The Panel welcomed the restatement of the Growth Board purpose set out in paragraph 28 of the report.

·           The Panel welcomed the areas for further development set out from paragraph 42 of the report onwards, particularly ideas aimed at greater involvement by partners and the public in joint planning for Oxfordshire and the idea of a public Oxfordshire-wide forum. However, it was important for any proposals or recommendations arising from joint planning events to clear and transparent to the public.

·           That consideration should be given to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 29c


Digital Infrastructure Strategy pdf icon PDF 171 KB

To review a report on the Digital Infrastructure Strategy which recommends that the Growth Board welcomes the Digital Infrastructure Strategy and that the Growth Board consider recommending that each constituent consider adoption of the Digital Infrastructure Strategy via their own decision making processes.  

Additional documents:


The Scrutiny Panel considered a report to the Growth Board on the Oxfordshire Digital Infrastructure Strategy. Craig Bower, Digital Infrastructure Programme Director, presented the report.  The following points were highlighted:


·           The Digital Infrastructure Strategy supported the wider objective of balancing growth and the environment by improving digital infrastructure, for example facilitating work from home reducing work related journeys etc. 

·           As a result of the public funds invested through the Better Broadband Programme, levels of broadband coverage in the county had increased to around 97% - around 70% of households are connected.

·           The next step was to facilitate the provision of improved digital infrastructure – including both full fibre and 5G connectivity. This would help meet future demand and ensure that the network was not overwhelmed.

·           In discussions and negotiations with partners, such as HM Government and digital infrastructure providers, it was important for local councils to show alignment of approach, including on planning matters whilst preserving local decision making. 

·           The challenge of increasing digital connectivity was not restricted to rural areas. The City of Oxford, for instance, had less than 1% full fibre connectivity and to improve upon this would have its challenges e.g. unavoidable disruption.

·           Improved digital connectivity was a broad ambition across the Oxfordshire to Cambridgeshire Arc.


The Panel welcomed and acknowledged the potential of greater digital connectivity in reducing work related journeys, although the potential implications on electricity demand was also noted. 


The Panel noted that some public concern existed in respect of the impact on health from the roll out of 5G connectivity and that whilst noting officers advice that there was no officially recognised evidence to suggest any ill effects it was important that the public was engaged with and any concerns recognised and responded to. 


The potential referenced in the strategy for improved digital connectivity to led to significant opportunities through the ‘internet of things’, particularly in respect of the health sector was welcomed.  However, it was felt that more focus should also be given in the future to the educational opportunities arising from greater digital connectivity.


Finally, it was felt that the Growth Board should consider formulating a strategic plan to progress the Digital Infrastructure Strategy.


RESOLVED: That the Growth Board consider formulating a strategic plan on how to progress the Digital Infrastructure Strategy.


Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Study pdf icon PDF 754 KB

To review a report setting out the conclusions and recommendations of stage one of the Study, (which was endorse by the Growth Board in June 2018) and approve the scope of stage 2, which sets out areas requiring further detailed options work.


The Panel considered a report to the Growth Board setting out the findings of the first stage of the Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Study and laying out the proposed approach for the next stage of the work programme. In addition, it also provided a summary of the outcomes of a specific examination of the potential to reopen the Cowley branch line for passenger services. John Disley, Infrastructure Strategy and Policy Manager at Oxfordshire County Council presented the report.


The Panel discussed and asked questions on the report, and noted points and raised matters summarised below:


·           The Panel’s attention was drawn to some minor typographic errors in the study’s Executive Summary and Annex 3. They were informed that these would be brought to the Growth Board’s attention and would be corrected in the online papers after the Growth Board meeting.

·           The main findings of the Study were that a significant uplift in rail capacity and connectivity in Oxfordshire was required along with a new Train Service Specification.

·           Taking account of the specific schemes and significant investment required, rail could have a critical role in supporting planned growth and employment opportunities across Oxfordshire.

·           The report was welcomed by the Panel. However, concern was expressed by a number of members who felt that the study did not adequately address issues around the impact of Network Rail’s priorities and interests, that the study did not appear to take account of Hadden and Thame station, the North Cotswold line or the London to Marylebone line or the impact of electrification. 

·           It was acknowledged that no decision had been taken by HM Government in respect of electrification, but if the situation was to change this would affect the dynamics of the next stage.


The Panel noted the report.


At 21:05 it was noted that the meeting had become inquorate. No formal resolutions were made by the Panel after this time. 


Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal Progress Report Q2 pdf icon PDF 217 KB

To review the 2019/20 Quarter 2 progress report to the Growth Board for the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.


Members present noted but did not discuss a report to the Growth Board which set out an update on progress at Quarter 2 (2019/2020) with the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.  The report reflected the position as of 31 September 2019 and Quarter 3 data would be presented in March 2020.


The Chair commented that the report indicated that rate of spend relating to the deal was outside of estimates and suggested that this an issue that should be revisited by the Panel in the future.


Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal Grant Funding Streams Interim Financial Summary Report - Period Q2 2019/20 pdf icon PDF 191 KB

To review an update to the Growth Board setting out the interim financial position of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal Grant Funding Streams for the Infrastructure Programme, Affordable Housing Programme and the Growth Deal Capacity Fund for the period 2017/18 to Q2 (September) 2019/20.


Members present noted but did not discuss a report to the Growth Board which set out an update on the interim financial position of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal Grant Funding Streams the Infrastructure Programme, Affordable Housing Programme and Growth Deal Capacity Fund for the period 2017/2018 to Quarter 2 2019/2020.


Infrastructure Sub-Group update pdf icon PDF 175 KB

To note an update from the Infrastructure Sub-Group.  Summary notes from the meeting held on 18 September 2019 and 6 November 2019 are attached. Notes from 14 January 2020 to follow.


Additional documents:


This item was not discussed.


Housing Advisory Sub-Group update pdf icon PDF 203 KB

To note an update from the Housing Advisory Sub-Group. The summary notes from the meeting held on 5 November 2019 and 7 January 2020 are attached.


Additional documents:


This item was not discussed.


Work Programme for the Scrutiny Panel and Action Log - January 2020 pdf icon PDF 126 KB

To discuss the draft work programme for the Panel submitted for consideration by the Panel’s Scrutiny Officer and requests for information/actions from previous meetings.



Additional documents:


The work programme of the Panel was considered as set out in the Agenda.  Amit Alva, Growth Board Scrutiny Officer gave an update on previous requests for information made by the Panel, commenting that one remained outstanding.


Members were encouraged to make suggestions as to the future Panel agenda items.


Dates of meetings

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


Scrutiny Panel

Growth Board

Wed 4 March 6.30 pm*

Wed 11 March 2 pm*

Thurs 28 May 6.30 pm

Tues 2 June 2 pm

Provisional Tues 15 Sept 6.30 pm

Provisional Tues 22 Sept 2 pm

Provisional Tues 17 Nov 6.30 pm

Provisional Tues 24 Nov 2 pm

Provisional Tues 19 Jan 2021 6.30 pm

Provisional Tues 26 Jan 2021

2 pm

Provisional Tues 16 Mar 2021 6.30 pm

Provisional Tues 23 March 2021 2 pm

Provisional Tues 1 June 2021 6.30 pm

Provisional Tues 8 June 2021 2 pm


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


* amended date





The Panel noted the dates of meeting as follows:


4 March 2020 (rescheduled)

28 May 2020

15 September 2020

19 January 2021

16 March 2021

1 June 2021


All meetings at 18:30 to be held at Oxford Town Hall.