David Cameron’s own election agent and one of his ministers are fighting plans to build more than 100,000 new homes in near his Oxfordshire constituency.
The protests have emerged after the Prime Minister said that local Tory-run councils do not have a “not-in-my-back-yard” view towards development.
Mr Cameron told BBC Radio Four on Tuesday that he did not “accept” that Conservative-led councils had a Nimby view towards new house building.
He said: “We have a locally-driven planning system where the first decision is made by the local district council.
“If I take my own district council, controlled by the Conservatives, in West Oxfordshire, it makes its decisions but actually we’ve been building in West Oxfordshire more houses than was actually set out under our plan. So I don’t accept that all these councils are Nimbys.”
The report recommended that up to 106,560 additional homes – or between 4,600 and 5,30 homes a year – are needed across Oxfordshire between 2011 and 2031.
The report – published in March – replaced previous forecasts which said only 55,200 new homes were needed between 2006 and 2026.
Mr Norton, the West Oxfordshire leader, told the Oxford Mail that the forecast – which will force his area to build 660 new homes a year – was “wrong”.
He said: “I think the number is wrong for West Oxfordshire, and if our officers decide it is inaccurate we will be challenging it.”
A West Oxfordshire spokesman added that Mr Norton and his fellow councillors “will decide locally an appropriate housing target figure for inclusion in the final version of the Local Plan which will then be tested through public examination”.
Three other local council leaders also said they were concerned about the forecasts – which are 40,000 bigger than previous estimates.
The row has escalated after Ed Vaizey, a friend of Mr Cameron and the MP for Wantage and Didcot, complained to Nick Boles, the planning minister.
In a letter, sent on May 6, Mr Vaizey asked if Mr Boles and his officials “could consider an urgent review of the planning methodology that leads to such massive numbers of homes being planned so that more realistic outcomes result.”
He added: “I am in no doubt that more houses are needed in this area. However there is concern that the standard national methodology that has led to these numbers is over-estimating the actual demand locally.
“There are significant consequences for many local communities which are now faced with levels of growth that will fundamentally change the nature of settlements.”
In his reply on May 15, Mr Boles said that “the Oxfordshire authorities should be applauded for the proactive and co-ordinated approach they have taken”.
He made clear that the forecast for 100,000 homes did not account for local planning constraints, suggesting that the figure might decrease.
Local plans – which under planning guidance published in 2012 set out where building has to take place for five years – included green belt protections.
[Boles added]: “Your needs assessment will give you a clear sense of the challenge that you face, in providing enough houses to meet local need, but housing need alone is not the only factor to be considered when drawing up a local plan.”
Shaun Spiers, the head of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said Mr Cameron should be looking to build on brownfield sites not the “green fields of Oxfordshire”.
He said: “David Cameron knows as well as anyone the danger of central targets that fail to meet local need and open beautiful countryside up to a developer free-for-all.”
If anyone has the boles letter to Vaizey please send it. Is Boles suggesting that constraints in Oxfordshire meean that the demand should be met in Northants and South Warwickshire – because of course Government Policy rightly says need should be met in full.
Is 100,o000 homes for Oxfordshire realistic and deliverable? Of course it is thats what Garden Cities are for.
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