To note progress in adopting Local Plans for each of the five Districts.
The Growth Board considered a report setting out progress towards the adoption of local plans across Oxfordshire. The Chair also invited a representative of each district council to also comment verbally.
Councillor Brown indicated that dates for the independent examination of the Oxford Local Plan were not yet confirmed. The expectation was that it would start in early December. Issues and questions from the inspectors were expected to be available from early October.
Councillor Smith commented that following the issuing by the planning inspectorate of its final report, Vale of White Horse was continuing to consider the adoption of Part 2 of its local plan. In September, the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee had asked for additional information. The local plan was scheduled to be considered by Cabinet on 4 October with a recommendation to Full Council on 9 October.
Councillor Mills commented that, in West Oxfordshire, work had started on a new Area Action Plan for the Oxfordshire Cotswolds Garden Village. Responses to an initial issues and options consultation held over the summer were currently being considered.
Yvonne Rees, Chief Executive of Cherwell District Council, commented that the Cherwell Local Plan was, as set out in the report, on track.
Councillor Cooper informed the Board that, since the publication of the Local Plans Update report, initial questions from the Planning Inspector in respect of the submitted South Oxfordshire District Council Local Plan had been received.
Following the 18 July Full Council meeting – at which South Oxfordshire had expressed its continued support for the Housing and Infrastructure Fund (HIF) – a significant amount of work had been put into the objective of keeping the HIF, with various meetings held with ministers and officials from HM Government. An observation from these meetings was the emphasis placed by HM Government on the continuation of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050. The Board was informed that a decision on the future of the local plan would be considered by South Oxfordshire’s Cabinet on 3 October and Full Council on 10 October.
In response to Councillor Cooper, Councillor Brown stated that the work the Oxfordshire local authorities did in partnership through the Growth Board represented more than the sum of its parts. She hoped that this, alongside the various correspondence sent to South Oxfordshire on this issue, would be taken into consideration by councillors when coming to a decision. Referring to letters from the Rt. Hon. Robert Jenrick, M.P., to Councillor Cooper, Councillor Brown commented that it was clear the future of the HIF was at risk. Notwithstanding these concerns, Oxford City Council wanted to continue to work in partnership with South Oxfordshire District Council.
Councillor Hudspeth spoke in support of the sentiments expressed by Councillor Brown. Through working in partnership, the councils had discovered that they had many areas of common agreement. Further, by working together in the wider interests of all the residents of Oxfordshire, they had made significant progress in addressing some of the key issues facing the county. He supported continuing to work in this way in order to provide infrastructure before development as it was an opportunity he felt should not be missed. It was his view that a variation in this approach could have detrimental consequences.
Councillor Cooper responded that a significant number of representations had been received and that they all would be duly considered by South Oxfordshire councillors when coming to a decision. She reminded the Board that copies of the correspondence referred to were available on the South Oxfordshire District Council website.
Jeremy Long, Chairman of OxLEP, commented that companies welcomed the dovetailing of infrastructure projects and development in making investment decisions. He highlighted the importance of partnership working in delivering the already significant achievements around infrastructure and the continued importance of working together.
In response to a query, Mark Stone, Joint Chief Executive South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Council commented that confidential legal advice had been sent to all South Oxfordshire councillors.
RESOLVED: That the Growth Board note the update on progress towards Local Plans adoption across Oxfordshire.