South Oxfordshire Tories ‘aghast’ over New Local Plan Delay that could cost £500million in Growth Funding

Bicester Advertiser

CONSERVATIVES are ‘aghast’ after Liberal Democrat and Green opponents delayed a critical development meeting until October – and said it could see Oxfordshire lose nearly £500m in government funding.

Last week, South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) cancelled its cabinet and council meetings for September and pulled it back another month.

It said it needs to talk to the government about how it could keep funding for housing and infrastructure and delay its key Local Plan, which outlines where it wants building to take place.

That includes £218m of funding for the Didcot area.

The Conservatives controlled the council until May, when huge losses saw the Lib Dems and Greens take over.

In a letter sent to the SODC’s leader, Sue Cooper, Conservative councillors state: “The longer it takes the SODC administration to make a decision about or Local Plan, the more vulnerable all communities right across South Oxfordshire become to other unwanted developments.”

They continue: “We are aghast that your group is prepared to forgo the funding which will, amongst other things, address gridlock around Didcot; create a new river crossing at Culham; improve junctions at the Golden Ball Roundabout, and provide edge streets around Benson and Watlington.”

SODC passed its controversial Local Plan in December 2018 when the authority was controlled by the Conservatives.

But in January, the party suspended six of seven councillors who had voted against it.

Just one of the ‘Green Belt Six’ stood to keep their seat as a Conservative in May. Elizabeth Gillespie retained Garsington and Horspath but resigned as a Conservative a week later after an appeal into her elapsed suspension was rejected.

The saga into the authority’s Local Plan stretches back to March 2018. One proposed by former council leader John Cotton was rejected by his own authority and split the Conservatives.

But the party’s councillors said the one approved earlier this year represents ‘a fine balance between protecting our environment, providing new homes and unlocking money for desperately needed affordable social housing and for infrastructure to support residents and businesses.’

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