How will the Government Bring Forward the Oxford Cambridge Arc Framework?

Budget 2012

The Budget announces plans to develop, with local partners, a long-term Spatial Framework to support strategic planning in the OxCam Arc

They have even advertised for a post to bring this forward – how?

At first the government may have had ambitions that local authorities would bring this forward themselves. With Buckinghamshire declaring UDI this is no longer practical. They cannot do it as an NPS as housing is excluded from the National Infrastructure regime.

Perhaps the plan is for this to be some kind of informal non statutory document.

The government also commissioned a study from AECOM for the area marked official sensitive. One step down from an official secret. The intention surely to inform a framework – but as environmental information it would have to be made public if at any stage it informed a development consent. Like any study you might guess it has some sensible locations anyone could choose and some less sensible ones. I’m just speculating (cough, cough). Also the slowness in terms of taking things forward might mean it is already out of date in terms of housing numbers methodology, infrastructure planning and in particular modelling zero carbon scenarios.

Recently at a conference a senior civil servant hinted that if LPAs did not bring forward new communities in the ARC the government would bring forward development corporations. However if done on the new town model with approved masterplans then this would be a ‘development consent’ and would fall foul of the SEA directive if their were not early engagement on realistic options. With a secret strategy where is the engagement? Of course you could just declare corporations without plan making powers – but that was tried and failed in Thurrock and West Northants.

So we are precisely nowhere. The scardy cat nature of the government means they have lost three years. How dare they criticse lpas for slow plan making. My guess is there will have to be some kind of reset. Setting out a new study based on 1) the new formula for housing need and 2) more up to date figures on land constrained areas (London) overspill based on the final London Plan numbers and 3) using the new government zero carbon targets. Just issue the old report on some obscure government website as background evidence without any endorsement.

The 2004 act section 27 gives the SoS reserve powers to direct LPAs to revise plans or even prepare plans (subject to indpendent examination). This could give the SOS powers to prepare startegic policies only for the arc. This could relate to:

  1. strategic scale developments (over 5,000 units say
  2. Strategic infrastructure
  3. Housing targets for each LPA or sub area.

We have had 3 years of useless faffing about of planning between the government and counties/districts in smoke filled rooms. Lets let in some sunlight.

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