South-Ox say No

The Local Plan for South Oxfordshire has become increasingly uncertain following recent events. It began following the local elections that saw the Conservative Council replaced by Liberal Democrats and Greens. These parties campaigned profusely on the premise that the South Oxfordshire District had been allocated too many homes, that this should be decreased, and the Local Plan abandoned.

Consequentially, the South Oxfordshire’s District Council cabinet voted on the 3rd of October to withdraw the plan, scheduling a ‘binding’ vote to take place on the 11th of October. The Secretary of State has delayed this progression, his letter read as follows. “In exercise of the powers under section 21A of the 2004 Act (inserted by section 145(5) of the Housing and Planning Act 2016), I hereby direct South Oxfordshire District Council not to take any step in connection with the adoption of the Plan, while I consider the matter further.”

A vital consequence of withdrawing the Local Plan is the creation of uncertainty surrounding the £215 million Growth deal agreed between Central and Oxfordshire government, that the Local Plan underpins. However, an equally significant consequence of overruling the vote on the 3rd of October would be political backlash against the Conservatives. Considering the upcoming election, this would risk a damaging loss in seats.

In a similar form, East Cambridgeshire District Council have also withdrawn their Local Plan in February 2019. This came after the Planning Inspectorate’s main modifications. The Council claimed that these main modifications were extreme and unreasonable, ultimately creating a Local Plan that was too divergent from the original. Some of the main modifications that the Council took umbrage with were;

  • increasing housing numbers,
  • deleting the policy that requires development to respect the needs and characteristics of a settlement,
  • deleting the policy for community-led development, and
  • deleting the policy for higher disability standards.

Whichever choice the Secretary of State makes, all interested parties should keep a close eye on South Oxfordshire and we wait to see if this becomes a trend among Councils.

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