Members of the public may ask questions of the Chairman of the Growth Board, or address the Growth Board on any substantive item at a meeting, subject to the restrictions set out in the public participation scheme.
The total amount of time allowed for public participation at a meeting shall not exceed 30 minutes, unless the Chairman consents to extend that time in the interests of the proper conduct of the business of the Growth Board.
A person speaking to the Growth Board may speak for up to three minutes. Board members may ask questions for clarification.
Asking a question
Questions (in full and in writing) must be received by 5pm on Wednesday 23 January 2019. A written or verbal answer will be provided by the Chairman at the meeting. The questioner may ask a supplementary question directly related to either the original question or the reply received.
Addressing the Board
Notice of a wish to address the Growth Board by making a statement must be received by 12 noon on Monday 28 January 2019.
Petitions on matters directly relevant to matters in which the Growth Board has powers and duties must be received by 5pm on Wednesday 23 January 2019. The representative of the petitioners may speak. Petitions are referred without discussion to the next meeting.
Questions, petitions and notice of addresses must be submitted to email@example.com or delivered/posted to Democratic Services, South Oxfordshire District Council, 135 Eastern Avenue, Milton Park, Milton, OX14 4SB.
The Growth Board received five questions and three statements from members of the public:
1. Question from Sarah Couch (read out by Nigel Pearce):
“It is very hard to see how the growth targets you are working with are compatible with the de-carbonisation which is essential to address the climate emergency. We need to reduce CO2 emissions to zero in the next 30 years - the Paris commitments (if implemented) will result in catastrophic 3 degrees warming. All development including infrastructure needs to be far more ambitious. How do you intend to reduce CO2 emissions to zero in the plans you are developing?”
In response, the chairman reported that the Growth Board recognised the challenges that growth brought and wanted to promote good growth that was sustainable. The Oxfordshire Growth Board and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) had recently agreed a countywide energy strategy (developed by OxLEP in partnership with all local councils, the University of Oxford, Low Carbon Hub, the Distribution Network Operator, and other stakeholders). The overall vision of the energy strategy was for ‘Oxfordshire to be at the forefront of energy innovation to foster clean growth’. The strategy set a target to reduce countywide emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, compared with 2008 levels, and set a pathway to achieve zero carbon growth by 2050. The strategy has been underpinned by a carbon emission analysis, taking into account a number of scenarios, including the addition of 100,000 new homes. Delivery of the strategy required ambition and activity in a wide range of areas. The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 had a role in setting the vision for low carbon standards in new development. This was integral to its place-making principles that would drive growth that enhanced the environment and quality of life.
2. Question from Fleur Woodland (read out by Nigel Pearce):
“In the light of climate change obligations (where England's actions, compared to almost everywhere else is, notoriously poor), why is expanding transport systems seen as a good idea (especially as primarily being for the science / technology hub - when presume they, of anyone, could embrace solar-electric-powered human-carrying drones)?”
In response, the chairman reported that the Growth Board recognised that, in order to support the level of growth planned for Oxfordshire, expanded transport systems would be necessary in some circumstances, for example where new or significantly expanded settlements were proposed. Increasingly however, the Growth Board hoped and expected that these settlements would also be supported by other, more innovative solutions that would reduce the need to travel. The Growth Board’s whole infrastructure approach was about reducing traffic, cutting journey times, improving mass transit options, and reducing the need for travel through the way new communities and workplaces were designed. Travel would be safer, smoother and cleaner. For example, the Growth Board was delivering over 40 separate projects to help improve access and the ability to move around, including journey times. This included better bus transit, cycling and walking routes. The Growth Board recognised that people wanted the infrastructure to be built before new housing, and it was working to plan and forward fund road improvements as much as it could. The Growth Board was also looking at the future, where existing infrastructure would need to adapt to different mass transit and autonomous vehicles. It wanted to roll out roadside electric charging points across the county to accelerate the take-up of clean electric vehicles by businesses and residents. Finally, the Growth Board wanted to increase home-working and locally-based employment, with fewer people having long commutes. Ultrafast fibre and 5G digital networks would improve rural productivity and enable more people to work locally.
Mr Pearce, on behalf of Fleur Woodland, asked a supplementary question to the chairman. In your response you talked about reducing journeys, but how does that align with the A40 consultation that sets out plans to increase journeys?
The chairman agreed to respond in writing.
3. Question from Nigel Pearce:
“Are the housing targets in the Oxfordshire Districts' Local Plans being revised downwards in light of the hundreds of thousands of homes due to be built along the CaMKOx Arc? If not, why not? Won't the Arc cover the totality of Oxford City's supposed unmet housing need many times over, not least because it will come with a new rail link and expressway for commuters into Oxford?”
In response, the chairman replied ‘no’. The planned houses in the local plans were required to meet Oxfordshire’s needs. The government was not proposing to reallocate this planned growth elsewhere in the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Arc. The Arc was a government initiative recognised by the Oxfordshire councils and it was not a formal planning document. There were no set government targets for the scale of future growth across the Arc. Oxfordshire’s councils intended to address Oxfordshire’s role in the wider Arc through the Oxfordshire Plan 2050. This approach would allow for a strategic planned approach to growth across the county, beyond the planned timescales in the existing and emerging local plans, and that would be the subject of full consultation and local engagement.
Mr Pearce asked a supplementary question. It was surprising that there appeared to be no co-ordination in planning for the Arc and planning for development in West Oxfordshire. When will the co-ordination begin?
The chairman agreed to respond in writing.
4. Question from Ros Kent(read out by Nigel Pearce):
“Given that the government and local councils are ignoring the evidence of their own statistics from the Office of National Statistics which now predict a much lower housing need than estimated in 2014, is this evidence being ignored because:
(a) building more houses will mean that the Councils will receive central funding from the government for forwarding their Oxford-Cambridge Arc scheme?
(b) our post-brexit economy will appear prosperous with all the extraneous building work going on?
(c) what will happen when much of the housing lies empty?
(d) who will take the fall for this error of judgment?”
In response, the chairman reported that the current suite of existing and emerging local plans was planning for growth up to 2031-36, using as their evidence base, the 2014 Strategic Housing Market Assessment. This remained the best and most current evidence for planned growth for this period as evidenced by the planning inspectors’ findings in Cherwell, Vale of White Horse, and West Oxfordshire. Oxfordshire’s councils were now embarking upon a joint spatial plan to 2050 and would be carrying out new work on Oxfordshire’s long-term housing need to support this plan. This work would comply with the requirements set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.
Mr Pearce, on behalf of Ros Kent, asked a supplementary question to the chairman. A recent study had suggested that Oxford’s objectively assessed need should be almost half that stated in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment. Were any of the local plan housing numbers being revised downwards?
In response, the chairman replied ‘no’.
5. Question from Helen Marshall on behalf of the coalition Planning for Real NEED not Speculator GREED in Oxfordshire, relating to Item 9 - the Oxfordshire Plan 2050:
“We welcome the manner in which the important issue of healthy place-shaping was embraced by the Growth Board at the last meeting, with a number of practical measures also approved to embed it in the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 development process and project structure. We would ask that there is similar recognition for sustainability. We accept that the term "sustainability" has been included in many key documents, but to deliver a truly sustainable plan for Oxfordshire requires the range of complex and technical concepts that the term "sustainability" embodies to inform and influence decision making throughout the process, consistently and at many levels. Issues such as social cohesion, the value of ecosystem services, and what scale of growth can be accommodated by various natural resources without depletion or harm over time, underpin every aspiration and objective being explored for the 2050 Plan. Would the Growth Board consider making a similar explicit commitment to sustainability as they have done for healthy place-making, for example by embedding officers, consultants or informed stakeholders with specific remit (and skillset) for sustainability in the Growth Board substructures, and ensuring that the principle of sustainability is given priority and due regard in the project process and all decision making?”
In response, the chairman reported that the Growth Board did not wish to promote growth at any cost, it wanted Good Growth in Oxfordshire that was planned and managed at a sustainable level, that was inclusive and helped everyone. The Growth Board needed to think long-term about how to provide the new homes, the new jobs and workplaces for careers to prosper, the schools for our children and grandchildren, the facilities to maintain the health and wellbeing of the county, and the transport networks to keep us connected. The best way to embed a sustainable approach to these challenges was through the planning process. Oxfordshire’s local plans would now be backed by the county-wide Oxfordshire Plan 2050 to ensure a properly planned approach going forwards that balanced local and strategic needs. Sustainability was and would continue to be a core principle of this plan, recognising that the purpose of the planning system was to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. The plan would be developed alongside and in conjunction with a sustainability appraisal to assess and demonstrate how the plan had addressed relevant economic, social and environmental objectives.
Helen Marshall asked a supplementary question. What practical measures would be taken to ensure sustainable development? What steps would you take to get people with the right skills sets round the table to ensure a robust process to achieve sustainable development?
The chairman agreed to provide a written response.
6. Mark Beddow addressed the Growth Board on growth in the 21st Century, on the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway and local planning, and on the nature of the Growth Board. He reminded the Growth Board that the world population had almost doubled since 1972 and the sea level was higher resulting from increased CO2. This level of growth was not sustainable in the 21st Century. There had been no consultation on the need for the Oxford to Cambridge Arc, which was essentially ribbon development. Highways England had not studied the environmental impact of an expressway across the Arc, nor considered the impact on other roads, such as the A34, nor listened to opposition. This was not needed in Oxfordshire. The Arc and other proposed developments such as Thames Water’s proposals for a reservoir, made him believe that the government had declared an ‘open season’ on Oxfordshire. The Growth Board needed to address these issues.
7. Oxfordshire County Councillor Charles Mathew addressed the Growth Board on the recent public consultations on the future of the A40. The A40 Housing Infrastructure Fund bid had not recognised that the greatest use of the A40 was through traffic, not local residents travelling to Oxford. The plans also included measures that would delay traffic, such as additional roundabouts and traffic lights at junctions. Adding new housing developments could bring the A40 to a stand-still. The Growth Board needed to think of alternative solutions to overcome these issues.
8. Ian Green, the Chairman of the Oxford Civic Society, addressed the Growth Board. He welcomed the draft Oxfordshire Plan 2050 and offered to submit the Society’s report as a contribution to the plan’s development.
The chairman welcomed the Oxford Civic Society’s contribution and asked for a copy of its report.