To receive an update on the Local Plan 2034 and consider available options.
Cabinet received a verbal update from the chief executive on the Local Plan. The council had received a letter from the Secretary of State on 3 March 2020 setting out a binding direction to the council to progress the submitted Local Plan 2034 to adoption by December 2020. Cabinet was therefore no longer able to consider the head of planning’s report or the option to withdraw the plan.
The Leader invited the members of the public that had registered to speak at the meeting to address Cabinet.
(1) Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council and chair of the Didcot Garden Town Advisory Board, welcomed the government’s direction spoke in support of the council progressing the submitted Local Plan through to its adoption by December 2020.
(2) Neville Harris spoke in favour of an eco-friendly Local Plan, the need for affordable housing, and measures to tackle the climate emergency.
(3) Adrian Townsend urged Cabinet to seek a judicial review of the Secretary of State’s direction and withdraw support for the Oxfordshire Growth Board and the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.
(4) Caroline Baird urged Cabinet to protect residents, protect Culham from housing development, tackle the climate emergency, and seek changes to the Local Plan before it was adopted.
(5) Richard Harding, on behalf of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, believed that the Local Plan was flawed, and urged Cabinet to oppose the Secretary of State’s direction and develop a new plan to protect the district.
(6) Mark Stevenson believed that today’s knowledge of the climate emergency overrode the Local Plan. He urged Cabinet to challenge the Secretary of State’s direction.
The Leader thanked the speakers for their comments.
The Cabinet member for planning believed that the concerns expressed presented genuine challenges that needed to be addressed, including the housing numbers required, Green Belt issues, climate change, and the need to reduce commuting. However, he believed that the council must move forward, recognise the direction of the Secretary of State and make the necessary recommendation to Council to allow the submitted Local Plan 2034 to progress and request officers to ensure that happened. He acknowledged continued support for infrastructure funding. He also asked officers to explore all opportunities to address through the local planning process the climate emergency, enhanced policies for environmental standards to achieve high quality sustainable settlements, and the early delivery of appropriate regeneration and housing delivery to meet local needs.
Cabinet supported the proposal, believing that the council must move forward, work with other councils, and focus on what was achievable. The council had a duty to its residents to ensure it had a seat at the table in the future and therefore it must accept the Secretary of State’s direction and move on.
RECOMMENDED to Council to:
(a) note the terms of the direction to the council from the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government;
(b) acknowledge the decision of the Secretary of State to allow South Oxfordshire District Council to progress the submitted Local Plan 2034;
(c) request the head of planning to prepare a timetable and ensure that adequate staff resources are in place in order to meet the requirements of the direction;
(d) continue to acknowledge the critical importance of long-overdue infrastructure to support housing already delivered and to be delivered through the Local Plan and request the Secretary of State to confirm his commitment to the funding provided through the Oxfordshire Growth Deal and the Didcot Garden Town Housing Infrastructure Fund;
(e) ask the chief executive to ensure that sufficient budget provision and staff resource is made available to fully explore all opportunities to address through the local planning process and any other means the council’s concerns including but not limited to:
(i) addressing the council’s declared climate emergency;
(ii) enhancing planning policies for environmental standards, including improved site master-planning to achieve high quality sustainable settlements; and
(iii) early delivery of appropriate regeneration and housing delivery activity to meet local needs.