To consider notes from meetings of the following Growth Board Members Advisory Sub-Groups:
· Oxfordshire Plan 2050 – 25 July 2019
· Infrastructure Sub-Group – 28 May 2019
· Infrastructure Sub-Group – 23 July 2019
· Housing Advisory Sub-Group – 3 September 2019
Housing Advisory Sub-Group
The Panel considered the notes of the meeting of the Housing Advisory Sub-Group held on 3 September. Councillor Brown, Chair of the Sub-Group, summarised their discussions, particularly highlighting those that had taken place in respects of a skills shortage in the construction sector and the issue of incomplete planning applications. The issue of incomplete planning applications was particularly important as local planning authorities would need to be much more proactive in monitoring them in the future.
The Panel noted in the update and its discussion with Councillor Brown:
· The Sub-Group in its discussion had considered the barriers holding up the delivery of planning applications and potential mitigations. The recommendations of the Letwin review which would increase the powers of local planning authorities were yet to be implemented by HM Government and, therefore, options were limited.
· The Panel had noted a map of major development sites linked to Housing Infrastructure Fund bids.
· The predominantly negative image and perception of construction as a career choice was discussed. It was agreed that the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and the Oxfordshire Skills Board had a role in improving this – linked to the Local Industrial Strategy. The Panel felt that the negative perceptions around a career in construction needed to be confronted, and that one of the key challenges was a shortage of places offered by colleges.
· The Panel felt that the development of zero-carbon construction skills was important, noting that this had been discussed by the Sub-Group. Moreover, the Sub-Group had acknowledged that there were potential trade-offs between the cost and the delivery of homes in following a zero-carbon ambition.
· The position of Oxford City Council with regards to the trade-offs needing to be considered within the amount of borrowing headroom available in its Housing Revenue Account was noted.
Arising from its discussion, the Scrutiny Panel resolved to recommend that:
RESOLVED: The Growth Board and its advisory sub groups should acknowledge the impact of its growth strands such as Housing, Infrastructure, Oxon plan 2050 and Productivity have on trying to achieve net Zero Carbon. Given the partner councils climate and environmental ambitions the GB should support research into smarter and greener construction methods and include it as a part of its core strategy in all areas of growth.
Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Sub-Group
The Panel considered the notes of the meeting of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Sub-Group held on 25 July – Giles Hughes, Chief Executive of West Oxfordshire District Council, highlighted the main points which had included presentations on the use and mapping of natural capital as part of the spatial planning process.
The Panel noted in the update and its discussion:
· That issues such as accessibility of airspace had not yet informed thinking around natural capital.
· That work around natural capital was likely to feed into and inform the development of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 linked to ecological issues.
Councillor Nick Carter referred to para 21 of the Sub-Group notes which referred to the passing by several Oxfordshire local authorities of motions opposing an Oxfordshire to Cambridge Expressway. He suggested that an Expressway would be contrary to the achievement of carbon neutral targets and that the Growth Board’s view on the issue should be sought.
After an extensive discussion, a proposal was duly put to a vote and carried by 13 votes to one.
RESOLVED: That the Growth Board acknowledge the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway project is in contradiction to the environmental ambitions of the Local Authorities with regards to Climate Emergencies being declared. The Panel would like to ask the Growth Board take steps to communicate this to the media and HM Government.
(Note: Councillor Alex Postan wished to be recorded as voting against the motion).