Oxfordshire Housing and Growth deal at Risk after Local Elections

Oxford Mail

THERE is concern a major deal with Government could be scrapped if a council decides it does not want to take part.

All Oxfordshire councils signed up to the £215m Housing and Growth Deal and it was officially agreed in March 2018.

It provides £150m for infrastructure improvements, including to roads and railways, and £60m for affordable housing.

But there is concern within other authorities after the new coalition led by Liberal Democrats and Greens at South Oxfordshire District Council said they planned to review its Local Plan.

But Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We have got to wait and see what the councils say. It is entirely up to them but having £60m for affordable homes is a major issue to the councils. Losing that would be very upsetting for everyone.

“Everyone needs to be very careful about what they do and the consequences.”

In South Oxfordshire, Lib Dems and Greens are opposed to the plan – although they appear to be against different parts.When the Growth Deal was signed, the Government told the councils that they had to submit their Local Plans to an independent inspector by the start of April. They are outlines of where authorities plan to develop until the mid-2030s.

It is understood the Greens would rather continue the project to build homes at Chalgrove Airfield and stop development on the Green Belt. But senior Lib Dem David Turner is wholly opposed to building on the airfield. He represents Chalgrove on the council.

Leigh Rawlins, SODC’s newly appointed cabinet member for planning, said the council would undertake a review over the Local Plan as part of ‘mature consideration’ following the election.

He said: “Clearly there has been a huge amount of concern about the Local Plan, the process and how it came together across the district.”

The uncertainty has left some residents furious, who are worried that Neighbourhood Plans they helped put together could be delayed or even scrapped as part of the Local Plan.

Justine Wood, who worked on East Hagbourne’s Neighbourhood Plan, said a delay to the Local Plan could mean speculative development.

She said: “There were 1,200 homes planned for East Hagbourne, which would have quadrupled the size of the village (through speculative development). It would have been catastrophic.

“But if they scrap the Local Plan they will get more than the 28,500 they are objecting to and they will have nothing they can do about it.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government cancelled a £68m deal for affordable housing with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

GMCA said it would build 227,200 homes until 2034/5 – but then later committed to just 201,000 homes.

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