South Oxfordshire Defers Key Meeting over Local Plan over concerns over £400 million Impact

Didcot Herald

A MEETING to discuss South Oxfordshire District Council‘s Local Plan was deferred after councillors said they wanted more information about its potential impact.

The council’s scrutiny committee met on Wednesday but another will be held in a few weeks after councillors said they wanted more information on housing supply.

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Key highlights

This section of the report identifies four options that officers believe are currently open to the Council. It presents each of them in turn, but to summarise, they are as follows:
Option 1) Allow the emerging Local Plan to continue through its examination.
No changes will be recommended by this Council. Any
modifications made during the examination will be entirely at the
discretion of the Inspectors.
Option 2) Allow the emerging Local Plan to continue through its examination,
but proactively recommend a series of main modifications to the
plan. These changes will be entirely at the discretion of the
Inspectors. There are no early conclusions from our Inspectors
about the soundness of aspects of the Plan or if modifications are
needed. The Plan cannot be changed unless the Inspectors find
that part of the Plan unsound.
Option 3) Withdraw the Local Plan from examination. The Council will make
changes to the plan, then conduct a further Regulation 19
consultation. The extent of changes will need to fall within the
remit of Regulation 19 consultation – i.e. not introduce new subject
areas for the plan to cover. The Council would then submit a
revised plan for examination.
Option 4) Withdraw the Local Plan from examination. The Council will
restart the plan making process. This will allow the Council to
prepare a significantly different plan (subject to compliance with
the law, and national policies and guidance). The Council would
need to undertake at least two consultations (Regulation 18 and
19) before submitting the new plan for examination.

…Officers recommend the Council proceed with Option One: Progressing with the emerging Local Plan – no changes.
There are some disadvantages to progressing with Option One, including the shorter term risks to housing land supply from strategic allocations and the inability to finally resolve the questions around Oxford’s unmet housing need and capacity before our plan is adopted.
However, this option is the best opportunity to guarantee ongoing infrastructure funding from HIF and the Deal, which is of particular benefit to the communities of Didcot and Science Vale. Furthermore, if housing delivery slows in Didcot, as a result of this funding being withdrawn, then it could have a consequential impact on the housing land supply for the rest of the district. These issues will affect our partners, including Vale of White Horse District Council and Oxfordshire County Council.
Option One is likely to be the quickest way to update our strategic policies in the Core Strategy and provide long term confidence to our communities and partners about development in the district.
There are clear advantages over the disadvantages in progressing this option as set out above. Officers therefore recommend Option One…

The biggest risk to the Council by not progressing the emerging Local Plan is the impact on both the Deal and HIF infrastructure projects with potential long term consequences for housing land supply. The infrastructure impacts on the
highway network would be significant in Didcot and the surrounding villages in Science Vale.
A failure to progress a Local Plan that identifies future development requirements for the area and strategic locations where these requirements can be
accommodated will extend the time in which we are operating under the Core Strategy.
The absence of a Local Plan could result in an uncoordinated approach to development, leading to inappropriate and incremental development being allowed on appeal that does not take account of cumulative implications and requirements for supporting infrastructure, with the potential for adverse environmental impacts. The locations where speculative applications are likely to be pursued are those areas of the district which are located outside the Oxford Green Belt and the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty as these areas have higher protection under the NPPF.
The council is required to have a minimum of a five year supply of housing. The council is currently in a position where it can demonstrate a sufficient level of land for housing. The published figures in the June 2019 Housing Land Supply statement evidence that the Council can demonstrate a 9.8 year supply against the standard method, and a 5.2 year supply against the emerging Local Plan