What Makes the Crazy Choice of Junking the South Oxfordshire Local Plan ‘Rational’

If you are elected on a platform of restraining housing growth in South Oxfordshire junking the local plan examination and rewriting it (as cabinet look likely to recommend this Wednesday) would seem an entirely counterproductive choice based on the evidence.

  1. The apportionment was based on the Oxford Growth deal, with doesn’t contain the higher long term additions from the NIC report from overspill from London and higher employment growth
  2. Junking the Oxfordshire growth deal you wont get the 3YHLS supply concession unique to Oxfordshire
  3. You will likely lose all of the funding for the Oxfordshire Growth Deal including several bypasses and other improvements
  4. The numbers will be written back up to a higher level when you do get to examination
  5. The numbers will come anyway in the medium term joint Oxfordshire plan
  6. Neighbourhood plans will be left vulnerable as so many will now be out of date in terms of housing numbers – most will no longer offer any degree of protection.
  7. The risk of SoS intervention to take the local plan away.

So by any rational analysis (as in the officers report) it would be a crazy thing for a housing restraint supporter in  a new administration to do, as Council leaders in Uttlesford and South Cambs in similar positions have already decided.  So why does the leader of South Oxfordshire Council propose such a counterproductive and crazy course?

I think the answer lies in the dynamics of opposition ism to the Corridor ‘project’ in Oxforshire and the feeling that it can be blocked.

What we are seeing here is what has been called ‘progressive Nimbyism’

“People invest themselves in the homes, communities and landscapes where they live,” Devine-Wright [Exeter Geographer] said. “That investment creates a deep reservoir of emotional attachment that can become anxiety and psychological distress when something rears up and threatens it.”

“It’s like playing Whac-a-Mole,” [Alex] Baca said. “No matter what you propose, they’ll tell you that if it was just a little bit different, they could support it. But then you come back with the changes they asked for and they find a new reason to fight it.”

Baca sees the increasing ugliness of public forums as a manifestation of the widening generation gap among progressives.

“The boomer generation came of age at a time when neighborhoods were fighting back against highway expansions and power plants,” Baca said. “To them, preserving their neighborhood is progressive.”

Oxford is a fairly progressive place.  Residents of Oxfordshire are used to campaigning on no end of issues.

The decision by the government to announce the corridor as national policy with a 1 million housing target a road and a railway, but no follow through on where avin g itb all top local councils, created an immediate opppositionism, reflected in the recent elections.  The fear of ‘concreting over the countryside’ and doubling the population of Oxfordshire.  There was no appreciation of the longer timescales, over 35-50 years towns will high employment growth will double in size, like Swindon has (1.7% growth a year), Oxford has grown 1.1% a year, but well below Cambridge 1.45% a year, and too slowly to prevent severe problems of stifling economic growth and creating major problems of unaffordability.

Most villages, other than the strictest protected conservation villages, have doubles in size over 50 years.  This is normal, this is England.  The issue is where and how, if well done, in Garden Communities for example, you can do this whilst only losing a small percentage 1-2% of your greenfield areas.

Yet when locations are unknown it is impossible to argue that the impact will be minimised because it wont be in your backyard it could be in anyone and everyone’s backyard.  This is what we have in Oxfordshire now.  A fear of highway based expansion everywhere which leads otherwise ‘progressive’ forces to seek to block development.  In Uttlesford and South Cambridgeshire there was not this head of steam, partially because they had already named there growth locations for the medium term, so the anywhere and everywhere fear didnt apply.  Im sure in Oxforshire you focussed till 2050 100k of growth in a new town at Grove, supported by 4 tracking the line between Swindon, Didcot and Oxford, you would get a lot of opposition in Grove but it completely falling way elsewhere in Oxfordshire, and a clear political majority for that focus (you always do with focussed growth in a Local Plan, its in most cllrs interest).

So what we are seeing in South Oxfordshire is a temporary sanity spasm caused by the Governments inept handing of the Arc and the fear of anything everwhere.

If you fear anything everwhere pull your finger out and get on with the local plan.


One thought on “What Makes the Crazy Choice of Junking the South Oxfordshire Local Plan ‘Rational’

  1. Firstly, the Plan was submitted (29 March) after the cut off date (24 Jan) in the new NPPF for application of the standard method. So the standard method already applies. Secondly, it is not a higher number; 632 dpa from the standard method is lower than the OAN of 775 dpa from the SHMA in the previous version of the Plan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s