What are the Options for South Oxfordshire Local Plan Fiasco?

Lead members for planning votes against own local plan, gets sacked, threat f ni confidence in Council leader – who then resigns.  Back to Cabinet for alternative option,

Oxford Mail

A CRITICAL part of a council’s housing plan faces being axed – again – because of concerns over its viability.

South Oxfordshire District Council has earmarked Chalgrove Airfield as somewhere it wants to build 3,000 homes, despite strong public opposition.

Its cabinet decided last week that it was content to keep the site in its local plan.

But on Tuesday the council rejected the current local plan and told the cabinet to go back and choose one of two options.

Either the cabinet can suggest the council looks to find an alternative site and scrap building on Chalgrove Airfield entirely or use that new site as a backup if Chalgrove is turned down in an independent inspection.

The local plan outlines where the council wants to build homes until 2033.

Council leader John Cotton, who resigned as the leader of the council’s Conservative group earlier this month, said although keeping the plan as it was would be a ‘risk’, it would be better to ‘crack on’ than to delay its submission.

After his proposal was rejected, he wrote on Twitter that he was ‘deeply disappointed’ that the council had ‘rejected submitting the plan that we had previously concluded was best.’

It is understood that other Oxfordshire councils worried that there was a ‘50/50 chance’ of SODC’s local plan failing had it been submitted as it stood earlier this week.

The airfield is owned by Government agency Homes England.

It has told the tenants, ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker, that it wants to take some of the land for building.

But Martin-Baker has resisted any approach, leading Homes England to threaten that it could use a compulsory purchase order to secure the land if no agreement is reached amicably.

Any building on Chalgrove Airfield is not supported by Oxfordshire Council Council, which has warned that the £90m offered by Homes England for roads infrastructure is about half of what it said it had expected.

The district council’s legal advice – which was referred to at Tuesday’s meeting but has yet to be made public – said the plan was ‘peppered with “considerable risk’, according to councillor Stefan Gawrysiak.

Graham Bell, from the Chalgrove Action Group, said the group supports the development of a local plan to stop speculative development ‘but it must be based on facts and evidence’.

He added: “This is not a plan based on facts and evidence and is based on the egos of some and intransigence of others.”

All Oxfordshire’s councils could be affected if the local plan is delivered late. As part of the £215m Housing and Growth Deal, councils’ local plans must be submitted next spring.

Alternative sites could include Wick Farm, adjoining the Barton Park site, or Grenoble Road, south of Oxford.

Another could be new town Harrington, off the M40.

What are the options

  1.  Chalgrove with a plan B.  Not a goer the government will no commit to the full cost of highway works.  In any event  Chalgrove location not sustainable
  2.  Harrington New Town.  Next to an M40 junction – that’s sustainable.  This general location could be a goer only if there was a restoration of the Wycombe railway line.
  3. Wycke Farm next to Barton Park.  Next to Oxford Border, Green Belt better not wrong side of M40 and no rail access.
  4. Grenoble Road, next to Oxford, part owned by Oxford Council, integrated with town, will have rail access wit restoration of Wycombe line to Cowley.  excellent access to Oxford business park.  Green Belt.  Some uncertainty re final route of Oxford-Cambridge expressway however of comes south of Oxford would form obvious edge of site.

Come down to Green Belt but sustainable v not Green Belt.  The Green Belt is a tool to shape urban form not shape stupidity.

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Court of Appeal clarifies Meaning of ‘Isolated’ Housing in NPPF

Ballilaw upholding this case

  1. In my view, in its particular context in paragraph 55 of the NPPF, the word “isolated” in the phrase “isolated homes in the countryside” simply connotes a dwelling that is physically separate or remote from a settlement. Whether a proposed new dwelling is, or is not, “isolated” in this sense will be a matter of fact and planning judgment for the decision-maker in the particular circumstances of the case in hand.
  2. What constitutes a settlement for these purposes is also left undefined in the NPPF. The NPPF contains no definitions of a “community”, a “settlement”, or a “village”. There is no specified minimum number of dwellings, or population. It is not said that a settlement or development boundary must have been fixed in an adopted or emerging local plan, or that only the land and buildings within that settlement or development boundary will constitute the settlement. In my view a settlement would not necessarily exclude a hamlet or a cluster of dwellings, without, for example, a shop or post office of its own, or a school or community hall or a public house nearby, or public transport within easy reach. Whether, in a particular case, a group of dwellings constitutes a settlement, or a “village”, for the purposes of the policy will again be a matter of fact and planning judgment for the decision-maker. In the second sentence of paragraph 55 the policy acknowledges that development in one village may “support services” in another. It does not stipulate that, to be a “village”, a settlement must have any “services” of its own, let alone “services” of any specified kind.

 

 

South Oxon Leader Resigns over failed stupid plan to avoid inevitable Oxford Green Belt release

BBC

Chalgrove was always a bad idea as we have stated many times on this Blog – there is an immediately available site South of Grenoble Road next to Oxford – which unlike Chalgrove does not take 3/4 hr to travel only 13 miles along narrow country roads. Why did Housing England ever back this when they had no control of the land – waste of time?

A plan to build more than 22,000 homes in south Oxfordshire has been blocked because of concerns about developing an airfield.

A majority of South Oxfordshire District Council’s members voted against the local plan despite the council leader’s support for it.

Many were unhappy at the inclusion of 3,000 homes on Chalgrove Airfield.

Councillor John Cotton said the decision would delay the local plan for about a year which was a “disaster”.

Mr Cotton said south Oxfordshire’s plan would protect the area from speculative attempts to build on sites where homes are unwanted.

Simon Reynolds of Chalgrove Airfield Action Group said it was not a sustainable location as the airfield can only be accessed from one road and councillors had begun to recognise that.

He also felt a plan to move the B480 road to run through the development would leave the village of Chalgrove “decimated”.

The World War Two airfield closed in 1946 and is leased to Martin-Baker a company that develops aircraft ejection seats.

The firm uses the 1800m (5905 ft) runway for tests and has said it will resist any attempt to buy any part of its lease through compulsory purchase.

Conservative Mr Cotton is facing a leadership challenge to run the council but said this was not connected to the vote.

“My colleagues will decide who they want to lead the group in the near future and I’m sure they will separate that from the discussion they had in the council chamber”, he added.

Update the leader of South Oxfordshire has resigned.

‘Plans are Never Rejected’ The Unsafe reality of Privitised Building Control

Last week I spoke to one local authority building control officer disgusted at a presentation given by a colleague in a major city saying that there policy is ‘plans are never rejected’ because they had to compete with privitised building inspectors who promise the same.

In a superb investigation by Inside Housing on how within a generation unsafe cladding was banned to become widely used and endorsed by the minister and chief building inspector its states it in pitch from one privitised service.

 

Wirral Leader’s Refusal to Consider Green Belt Sites Led to Local Plan Intervention

Place Northwest  letter here

“There has been a consistent failure to produce a Local Plan since the last Plan was adopted in 2000. The council has failed to meet milestones in published Local Development Schemes at least six times since 2004,” Javid said.

Wirral’s defence was that plan-making had been delayed by the abolition of Regional Spatial Strategies and withdrawal of Government funding, but highlighted progress in that the council was forming part of the Liverpool City Region’s Single Spatial Plan.

However, Javid replied: “These do not appear to be exceptional circumstances. These circumstances are not unique to Wirral.

“Enabling development in the short-term without a plan is not a justification for failure to produce a plan as this undermines the plan-led system, and many other councils have prepared a Local Plan from existing budgets.

“The Council has recently proposed a revised publication date of
September 2019 a delay of some further 18 months.”

“There are no exceptional circumstances to justify why your council has made such little progress over the years… there is no justification for the length of time your council is proposing to take on further evidence gathering.”

The delay to 2019 was incredibly set in Feb 2017

“Let me be clear, this Council will seek to meet its obligations and provide the homes needed to meet our economic growth ambitions; improve the quality of housing on offer for residents; and meet the needs of our most vulnerable people to enable them to live independently.

“We will achieve this by identifying all possible options for building new homes on existing sites and development locations. This administration is committed to not building on Wirral’s Green Belt.

Councillor Davies informed that the results of consultation had not identified any significant additional development opportunities to meet the likely identified need for new housing, over and above the sites already included in the Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment, the report recommended that officers be authorised to undertake and consult upon a wider review of potential development options, that would not, at this stage, commit the Council to any future land releases but would enable it to more precisely determine the environmental and other constraints that may apply to any future development sites, including land in the Green Belt designated in the Council’s existing Unitary Development Plan.

This was not a search for further evidence.  The Council had a full SHLAA and a Green Belt review, it was an attempt to kick the issue into the long grass until after the elctions.

You could of course argue that if Peel Waters was in public hands and not the hands of Britain’s worst (and slowest) developer Peel Holdings there would be no need for Green belt release at all.

At the same time Wirral is proposing 150 @executive Homes’ to fund development of its municipal golf course as a ‘resort’ you couldn’t make it up.

 

Wirral, Castlepoint and Thanet Face Local Plan Takeover – Why not Northumberland?

Announced Friday 

Al mot all of those threatened have made good  progress apart from these (even Basildon, St Albans and York) – and Northumberland.  Thanet and Northumberland rejecting officers draft plans.  Wirral and Castlepoint having draft plans for years but never getting to submission.  So why no intervention at Northumberland – one of the worst two performers in the country?

Why Basildon Took so Long to Submit its Local Plan – Its all About Essex Tribalism

No debate at all about teh merits or otherwise of rival sites or startegies you see – all about one group accusing the other of dumping on them – lowest form of debate.

Basildon Advertiser

BASILDON’S Local Plan has been passed by a majority vote after a heated five-and-a-half hour meeting at the Sporting Village which pitted Basildon and Billericay against one another.

The Local Plan is the council’s policy document which allocates land to accommodate almost 20,000 Government-ordered new properties by 2034. Under the plan, Basildon will take 9,220 new properties, Wickford 3,624 and Billericay 3,292.

Councillors traded insults as Tories tabled a litany of amendments which meant the Local Plan debate itself did not even begin until around midnight – four-and-a-half hours after the meeting commenced.

But all of the amendments failed and the Labour, UKIP and independent administration eventually approved the Local Plan – by a majority of 22 to 16 – at around 1am. It will now be sent to a Government planning inspector to be scrutinised.

Councillors on all sides said they agreed that the borough urgently needed a Local Plan, as once it was in place the borough would be protected from ‘rogue developers’.

With a Local Plan in force, the council can firstly reject planning applications on land which isn’t included and secondly refuse planning permission on allocated plots of land until infrastructure is provided.

Councillors said the new houses would also improve the chances of residents being able to afford properties in the borough.

Tory councillor Andy Barnes said that in 1998 the price of an average flat in Basildon had been £48,000, whereas now it was £290,000. He said the price of a semi-detached house had risen from £71,000 in 1998 to £341,000 now.

He said: “That’s nearly five-fold… You would need a deposit of over £100,000 to afford that semi-detached.”

But Conservatives rejected the plan presented by the administration, accusing rivals of ‘doing deals behind closed doors’ to ‘push through’ an ‘unsound’ plan.

Tory councillor Andrew Baggot described the Local Plan as a ‘Frankenstein monster of a policy’ and ‘an absolute travesty’.

The administration countered that Tories were simply playing to their heartland of Billericay, where a large campaign had been set-up to protest against the amount of proposed development.

Labour, UKIP and independent councillors insisted that the amount of new properties allocated to each town was calculated in line with the former Tory administration’s ‘spatial strategy’, which divided the dwellings based on each area’s existing population.

Under that formula, they said, Basildon took 63 per cent, Wickford 18 per cent and Billericay 17 per cent.

Labour leader Gavin Callaghan said Tory leader Phil Turner was pushing the line that Billericay was being ‘dumped on’ because its housing allocation had gone up – but described the suggestion as ’nonsense’.

He said: “What part-time Phil doesn’t tell you is that 17 per cent of 20,000 is more than 17 per cent of 15,000. All year long, not a single member of the Conservative party has come forward and said that they want to revise the percentages for where the new houses go. It’s the 11th hour. Where has this been? We haven’t had this all year, but now that we’re in a room with Billericay residents…”

Mayor David Harrison made a similar suggestion, saying: “My belief is that we need a Local Plan. This one is fair across the borough. I know people from Billericay don’t like it and I’m sorry to say the Conservatives have supported Billericay NIMBYism gone mad.”

Independent Kerry Smith also rejected any suggestion the administration was being unfair to Billericay. He said his ward, Nethermayne, was one-third of the size of Billericay but was getting 2,225 new dwellings, equivalent to more than two-thirds of Billericay’s allotted development.

Cllr Turner responded: “Far from just representing Billericay, we are not here to do that tonight. We have members all over the community. Unfortunately, you don’t have any members in Billericay and that’s why you target Billericay.”

He claimed the administration had ‘bullied and intimidated’ officers into putting together an unsound plan which could be rejected by a Government planning inspector.

Conservatives said that although the new plan halved the amount of green belt that would have to be sacrificed (compared to their own draft plan in 2016), it did so by squeezing more houses into less space, increasing the density of homes from 30 dwellings per hectare to 40.

In a committee meeting about the Local Plan on Monday, council officer Amanda Parrot said this meant the density would still only be the same as it currently is in Noak Bridge – but Cllr Barnes claimed the plan would ‘force people to live on crowded, unsuitable estates’.

Conservatives also pointed out that the plan was several thousand properties short of meeting the borough’s ‘Objectively Assessed Need’ (OAN) – the number of new properties Government says Basildon must build.

Tory Carole Morris said: “Clearly, the inspector will not pass this plan, so voting for this plan increases the chance of intervention.”

The spectre of Government intervention in Basildon’s planning loomed over the meeting. In January, the authority received a letter from Government’s housing and communities minister Sajid Javid, accusing it of making insufficient progress on its Local Plan and threatening to intervene in its creation if it didn’t speed up.

Cllr Callaghan said evidence showed that in areas where this had happened before, the Government imposed housing numbers between 20 and 30 per cent higher than the OAN.

But Cllr Turner called Cllr Callaghan ‘the doctor of fake news’, saying: “What we are being told is Sajid is outside waiting to beat us up because if this plan doesn’t go through immediately, there’s going to be hell to pay. That’s simply not true.”

Cllr Callaghan replied: “That ignores the evidence. We’ve all seen the letter.”

Tory councillors tabled one amendment calling for the Local Plan to be sent back out for another consultation, saying it was ‘significantly different’ to when it was consulted over in 2016.

The same point was raised at Monday’s meeting, where planning officer Matt Winslow said there was no duty to hold a consultation every time the plan changed, or else the Local Plan would never move on to the next stage.

Cllr Allport-Hodge told the meeting it was similar delays – caused because the Tories had been ‘too scared to push it forward’ – which had left the council facing the scale of development it currently did. She said that in 2012 the council’s OAN had been 6,500, rising to 11,900 in 2013, 15,260 in 2015 and 19,560 ‘mid-range’ in 2017.

She said: “By July 2018, when we are being asked to adopt the Government’s formula, that will push the numbers up to 21,600… You just need to basically show some leadership. To just keep putting it back on the shelf and doing nothing is not an option.”

Cllr Turner claimed it was equally possible that something else would push the numbers down as had happened in the past. Council officers confirmed at Monday’s meeting that during the global banking crash the numbers had shrunk, but had been increasing ever since.

UKIP councillor Stephen Ward accused the Conservatives of engaging in ‘complete gutter politics’ and trying to ‘protect Billericay at all costs but dump on Basildon’.

He said: “This is just nothing but complete and utter rubbish. We are here to represent the people of Basildon. We are here to ensure that there is an equal spread across the borough.

“This plan is an excellent plan. Not perfect – but better than anything we’ve ever had before.”

But Cllr Baggott said: “It’s a complete disgrace to the members of the public. It’s a complete disgrace for democracy. Now the public have a history of how this shambles has been created.”

St Albans Local Plan ‘Your at it Again arn’t You’

I don’t think St Albans could ever be accused of haste.

Herts Advertiser

A meeting of the district’s planning policy committee debated the possibility of accelerating the Local Plan programme so it is completed within six months after the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is implemented.

If that is achieved, St Albans district would only need to accommodate its own housing calculation of 700 homes yearly rather than 900, which is a number forced on SADC by central Government.

The current schedule sees the Local Plan submitted a couple of months after the six month deadline, in March 2019.

However, SADC’s head of planning, Tracy Harvey, said that tactic could risk the document being rejected by planning inspectors again.

She said rushing would mean abandoning crucial work essential for the soundness of the plan and weakens the relationship with other councils – who may object on duty to cooperate grounds.

The former Strategic Local Plan was dismissed at High Court because SADC did not cooperate fully with neighbouring councils, who argued SADC’s housing projections were too low.

Portfolio holder for planning, Cllr Mary Maynard, said: “I spoke with one of the [neighbouring council] portfolio holders today, I won’t say which one, and I said ‘How would you feel if we escalated our plan and come in with lower numbers?’ and there was a very long silence, which I bit my tongue so I didn’t interrupt, and the response came back, ‘You’re at it again aren’t you?’”

She added: “In the best possible world we would like to bring it forward. We are not in the best possible world, we are in the real world.”

Cllr Iain Grant added: “If we fail twice at examination on duty to cooperate it would take a very tolerant Government to say have a third go and if we lose control locally that would be a real shame.”

Cllr Jock Wright asked if a lower figure was even preferable: “Perhaps this is a devil’s advocate view, that we are talking about reducing the number of houses we need to build being a good thing, but what if those homes were social rented houses that we lost. There are people in this district who can’t afford to get a house.”

Cllr Maynard agreed to monitor officers’ progress and revisit the issue in the future.