To consider the head of planning’s report.
David Turner, the local ward councillor for Chalgrove, addressed Cabinet. He reported that Martin Baker needed the whole of the Chalgrove Airfield site to operate it business. To develop even part of the site would compromise its business. Apart from local opposition, the development of this site was opposed by the county council and other partnerships in Oxfordshire. The infrastructure funding offered by Homes England was disappointing at £90 million. He urged Cabinet to remove the Chalgrove site from the local plan.
Cabinet then considered the head of planning’s report on the South Oxfordshire Local Plan. The Cabinet member for planning introduced the report. He reminded Cabinet that when it considered a report on 20 March 2018, there were three options:
1. to submit the plan without change;
2. to remove Chalgrove Airfield as a strategic housing allocation and replace it with a site or sites;
3. to retain Chalgrove Airfield as a strategic housing allocation in the plan, but to add a reserve site or sites.
Cabinet had recommended option 1 to Council on 27 March 2018 but Council had rejected this, referring the matter back to Cabinet to reconsider options 2 and 3 and bring recommendations back to Council.
The report now before Cabinet had been updated since 20 March to provide more detailed timetables for both options 2 and 3, to provide further information regarding the process for considering alternative or additional sites and to reflect that the council could now demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.
The Cabinet member for planning believed the council needed to progress the local plan to ensure a supply of housing land to meet the needs of its communities and help its neighbouring city council. In addition, and despite a three-year land supply threshold for a limited period expected this summer as a consequence of signing the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, the council needed a suitable supply of housing land in the longer term to sustain the government’s requirement of a five-year housing land supply.
The Cabinet member for planning considered that option 1 was too high a risk to secure a sound local plan. However, he proposed a fourth option, which would enable the council to reconsider all sites and would provide officers additional opportunity to work with partners and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to mitigate against the potential loss of planning freedoms and flexibilities attached with the Growth Deal, should the local plan be submitted after March 2019. He suggested that the council should review all sites capable of forming a strategic housing or regeneration allocation promoted through the local plan process up to the end of the Regulation 19 publication period. This should include all the strategic sites proposed in the October 2017 Regulation 19 document and that these sites should also be reassessed based on the latest evidence and information.
Given the uncertainty of not meeting the Growth Deal timelines, which was one of the risks attached to option 2, he suggested that the council should also seek confirmation from the Ministry that submission of the local plan in January 2020 would not have a significant impact on the Growth Deal or the freedoms and flexibilities proposed as part of it. If this confirmation could not be provided, then the council should revert to option 3 as the preferred option to progress the local plan. This would ensure that the council was not adversely affected if the Growth Deal target could not be changed.
The Cabinet member for planning clarified that there were 15 sites which would need to be assessed under this fourth option. These included the previously proposed strategic or regeneration allocations of Culham, Wheatley, Berinsfield and Chalgrove. It also included those sites previously considered but not taken forward of Thornhill, Wick Farm, Lower Elsfield, Grenoble Road, Northfields, land at Great Western Park Didcot, and Harrington. It also included sites submitted late in the local plan process, being land at Emmer Green Reading, Reading Golf Club, Play Hatch Reading, and land off Thame Road, North Weston.
Cabinet supported the fourth option, to reassess the 15 sites for potential allocation for housing in the local plan, with the fall-back position of option 3 (to retain Chalgrove Airfield as a strategic housing allocation in the plan, but to add a reserve site or sites), and recommended this to Council for consideration at a special meeting on 15 May 2018.
RECOMMENDED to Council:
(a) subject to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government confirming that submission of the South Oxfordshire Local Plan in January 2020 would not significantly impact on the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal or the freedoms and flexibilities proposed as part of it, to ask officers to reassess all sites capable of forming a strategic allocation promoted through the local plan (to 2033) process up to the end of the Regulation 19 publication period (including all strategic sites proposed in the October 2017 Regulation 19 document) and to bring a draft Regulation 18/Regulation 19 document (as required) to Cabinet and Council to seek approval for publication for consultation; and
(b) in the event that such confirmation from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is not forthcoming to the satisfaction of the head of partnership and insight and the head of planning, in consultation with the leader of the council and the Cabinet members for planning and partnership and insight by no later than completion of the site filtering exercise (expected July 2018), to adopt option 3, set out in the head of planning’s report to Cabinet on 10 May 2018, and to ask officers to bring the Regulation 19 (October 2017) document including proposed additional reserve site(s) to Cabinet and Council to seek approval for publication for consultation.