On the South Oxfordshire Holding Direction – What does it mean

Was hoping last week to blog on the South Oxfordshire Local Plan direction however a <1k speed in the desert location where I am working blocked me.

Following South Oxfordshire District Council Cabinet’s decision on 3 October to recommend withdrawing the emerging South Oxfordshire Local Plan (“the Plan”), I am considering whether to give a direction to South Oxfordshire District Council in relation to the Plan under section 21 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (“the 2004 Act”).
The government remains committed to making sure every community has an up-to-date and sufficiently ambitious Local Plan. Withdrawing the Plan at this stage is instead likely to create uncertainty and expose communities to speculative planning applications.
Therefore, in exercise of the powers under section 21A of the 2004 Act (inserted by section 145(5) of the Housing and Planning Act 2016), I hereby direct South Oxfordshire District Council not to take any step in connection with the adoption of the Plan, while I consider the matter further. This direction will remain in force until I withdraw it or give a direction under section 21 of the 2004 Act in relation to the Plan.
I would like to work constructively with you to ensure that South Oxfordshire is able to deliver the high-quality homes and infrastructure required to support jobs and growth in the local community. As I set out in my letter to you on 26 August 2019, progressing the Plan is an essential step to delivering the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal. I have therefore asked my officials to get in touch with your officers to discuss next steps and will keep you updated
while I consider this matter further.

A local little bird told me that the local administration is taking it as a sign that the government wants to negotiation on its target, else otherwise why didnt it just step in.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

The SOS could intervene under section 21 of the act at any time (the kind of intervention long mooted at Castlepoint) however the SOS was faced with the imminent withdrawal of the current highly advanced (in process) local plan forcing him go back to stage 1.

Of course the result is the process is now frozen.  Leading SODC to (with a straight face) claim the government is holding up the local plan (the same local plan they want to scrap).

IF the SOS took over the local plan dont expect them to revise down the governments own OAN number.  What is more now they have delayed submission past the date of the completion of the London Plan panel report the SOS needs to find an extra 13,000 ‘land contained ‘overspill houses per annum, across ROSE.  As ever SODC cllrs through pride and tunnel vision made the worst possible decision in terms of their concerns and impact on the local community.

This is now a test for Jenryck and Esther ‘Gobshite’ Mc Vey, will they have the balls to intervene here and in Castlepoint and Amber Valley.




‘Hoot to Adopt Local Plan’ Conservatives Protest as S Oxon Cabinet Votes to Junk Local Plan

Key Test if Mc Vey is All Gobshite and No Trousers

Oxford Mail

CONSERVATIVES and residents held a protest aside a busy roundabout to try to gather support for the adoption of South Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan.

Traffic built up on Broadway in Didcot and the occasional driver tooted their support as former council leader Jane Murphy and activists called on the authority to follow the plan on Thursday.

Later that evening, the council’s cabinet decided it would recommend to councillors that it dumps its controversial Local Plan and looks again at potential housing sites.

Vale of White Horse District Council has said it would open it up to speculative development.

Bill Service, a former SODC Tory councillor who lost his seat in May, said: “I don’t think the Liberals expected to take the council.

“They promise the earth and they said they were going to stop the houses in South Oxfordshire. But it worries me they haven’t got a plan B.

“We have always spoken the truth. There’s building coming whether we like it or not but let’s have it where we can control it.”

Didcot resident and mum-of-two Sam Slater said she must leave her home at 7.15am every morning to drop off her children at nursery and school to get to work at 8.30am.

She said there are traffic problems in ‘each access and access point in Didcot’ and that new infrastructure is needed to improve the town’s highways.

Councillors have said congestion would be reduced with £218m of Housing Infrastructure Fund money that the government has agreed for Didcot.

Resident Alan Woodley said his family can trace roots in the town back to 1450.

He said: “I am trying to run businesses. I have got several businesses in town and getting in and out of [Didcot] is just a nightmare. We have taken so many houses and we need better infrastructure.”

In a letter, sent on Thursday, Vale council leader Emily Smith warned that her authority faces a ‘very real and immediate risk’ to its five-year land supply if SODC ditches its Local Plan.

But following the decision taken by SODC’s cabinet, its leader Sue Cooper said: “We have considered the detailed matters relating to the Local Plan long and hard over the past few months and I’m pleased that we’re making a clear, decisive and strong recommendation to councillors.”

Mrs Cooper added: “In making this recommendation, my cabinet has sought to do the right thing, not the easy thing, and we will continue to work positively and constructively in the best interests of all South Oxfordshire residents while also tacking the climate emergency, which we have an enormous responsibility to address.”

SODC will decide whether to accept the cabinet’s recommendation next Thursday.

McVey Adopts Taxpayers Alliance Policy on Green Belt – Removing its Strategic Function


People should be able to vote on whether to build on the green belt in their local areas, a housing minister has said.

Esther McVey MP, Minister of State for Housing and Development, told Conservative Party Conference that the protected land could be built on if local communities voted for it.

She told an event hosted by the Tax Payers’ Alliance: “I would put it to the local community and ask them whether they think their green belt is car parks and whether it should be classed as green belt at all. Then we can reclassify and build on it.

“I don’t believe in statist top down policy, I believe in going from the ground up”.

This idea appears to be a departure from her department’s green belt policy….

This was Taxpayers Alliance Policy since 2017.  I cant see how a Green Belt composed only through l;ocal mandates is compatible with the 1955 principle of a national policy of preventing urban sprawl.  A wholly bottom up Green Belt is licensened Nimbyism.  The CPRE should be appalled.
How can a ‘bottom up’ Green Belt be compatible with exceptional circumstances deletions in Local Plans where housing is for a STRATEGIC purpose.  Does Mc Vey even know the meaning of the word strategic?
Of course if it were ‘ca parks’ its a brownfield site in the Green Belt and can be built on already..

Isle of Wight to Challenge Government Over Housing Numbers (guess who will win)

Islnd Echoe  So Ventor Parish Council are world experts on demography are they – I never knew

Government-driven housing targets, which could see almost 10,000 new homes built on the Island over the next 15 years, look set to be challenged by the Isle of Wight Council.

The authority intends to prepare an evidence-based case that demonstrates the real housing needs of the Island.

The move comes in direct response to comments and concerns raised by residents in respect to housing numbers contained in the draft Island Planning Strategy – or Local Plan. Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely has also been fighting for a reconsideration of the target and has held a number of meetings with residents across the Island.

Using a new common formula set down by government for councils to “objectively assess housing need”, the plan proposed an annual housing target for the Island of 641 homes.

Council leader Dave Stewart said the authority had listened to Islanders’ concerns and would now seek to put forward its own calculation based on fact, rather than a formula. As part of that, he said he would work closely with Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely to argue the Island’s unique circumstances and what could realistically be achieved in terms of housing delivery.

McVey Treating ”Every Blade of Grass” as if it were Green Belt – is this the most incompetent and unhelpful speech ever made by a planning minister

From the full text of here speech isued by the ministry press office, so clerly not a mis-statement

Property Eye

Because greenfield land, greenfield sites, should not be what we turn to, not what we look at first.

Every blade of grass must be looked at before it is changed – and it is only in the most exceptional circumstances we turn there and I can announce today councils will receive a share of nearly £2m to crackdown on illegal development, including in the green belt.

You have to be patient with new planning minister as they grow into there brief and before they issue there first policy statement.

But this is a shocker

  1.  It makes the common error of confusing green field and green belt\
  2. Seems to reintroduce the discredited and unworkable sequential approach to homes
  3. Is a Nimbys wet dream
  4. Will set back every local plan in the country two years
  5. Is a pre-election pitch to a government nervous after losses in local elections in May

Clearly there will be request for clarification.  Was this cleared by the SOS, by the PM, buy the Prime Minister?

What I suspect happened in that civil servents prepared careful text and a green in the tooth spad over edited it to conflate the Green Field and Green Belt paras.  Every planner will recognise this as the same mistake is commonly made by new cllrs.

She is not a details person and given the Spinal Tap drummers curse that planning and housing ministers face she wont last long – especially after such a spectacular cock up.  It is every NIMBY BANANA local groups dream.

Allocating land for housing on non Green Belt sites is not exceptional.  Almost every local plan HAS to do it to meet NPPF policy.  Delivering all brownfield sites first is not practical because so many brownfield sites dont meet NPPF policy (deliverable viable etc.) , and because the data shows there are not enough of them, not nearly enough only around 1 5th of housing in strategic plans year 15-20 years even by the CPRE best estimates.  So is Mc Veys new policy to slow down housing, to allocate less ‘green field housing’.  Her lack of understanding over the realities of english planning is just staggering.  Its like her normal practice of withdrawing disabilities benefits from somewhat after they have died because that is what she has done today, killed off every controversial local plan in the country.  PINS everybody will be seeking clarification

-What did she mean

-Did she understand what she said

-Is it a change of policy

Clearly not I think because she didnt understand in the slightest the meaning or impact of her statement and how it would completely screw up the government’s housing targets.




KPMG Brexit will ‘make government housing delivery targets impossible to achieve’


UK house prices could crash by as much as a fifth if Boris Johnson pursues a no-deal Brexit, and the biggest falls would be in London and Northern Ireland, a leading accountancy firm has said.

Reflecting the potentially vulnerable state of the property market as Brexit looms, KPMG said house prices would fall by between 5.4% and 7.5% across different regions next year if a new agreement with Brussels was not in place by 31 October.

The analysis of average house prices across the country showed no deal could trigger a nationwide decline of about 6% in 2020 and that and a drop of between 10 and 20% was “not out of the question” if the market reacted more strongly than expected….

Jan Crosby, the UK head of housing at KPMG, said Britain leaving without a deal would probably lead to a sharp drop in sales volumes as wary homeowners wait for the turbulence in the property market to clear. This in turn would “make government housing delivery targets impossible to achieve and slow new building across the sector”, he said.

Against a backdrop of falling owner occupation in Britain as first-time buyers find it difficult to get on the housing ladder, the government has promised to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020s.

ONS Comments on the 2016 based HH Projections – Still not fit for Purpose for Strategic Planning

The ONS have produced a detailed set of sensitivity analysis on the differences between the 2014 and 2016 based household projections which will be bound to enflame debate about whether they should be used for strategic planning purposes.

Lets out one thing straight.  The issue is not whether the 2016 figures are more accurate but that the dramatic drop from the 2014 based projections broke the system, requiring an emergency reset and reconsideration.

A key methodological change was the 2016 based projections only using 2001 and 2011 census data, whereas previous projections spread the data points for projections over 4 decades.  What this did was instead of averaging out changes over the business cycles it straddled the abnormality of the Great Recession, where household formation was suppressed for economic reasons.  Whilst this made the projections ‘more accurate’ in the short term it considerably reduced there utility for strategic planning purposes, where the long term assumption was that if you built homes to meet projections over the long term then households would form to fill them.

This assumption has come under increasing pressure over the years as a shortfall of homes has not only suppressed household formation but also birth rates.

Demographic drivers are clear in the analysis with subnational population projection changes rather than changes in HRR rates the main driver in many areas; which in itself is not necessarily an expression of less need because of the feedback effect of lack of housing on fertility and emigration.

We have known for years that the ONS emigration model was broken and overestimated student overstayers.  It is no longer even used by the ONS as an official statistic.This is seems distorted figures for Oxford and Cambridge.  However the underlying economic realities are the same.  If an international student doesn’t overstay to fill a high skill job then it is more likely to be filled by an international graduate.  This indeed is the story of the latest ONS adjustments to international migration figures with EU migrants made up for by non eu migrants.  These international workers not necessarily staying in Oxford or Cambridge due to a lack of housing for them to fill.   The figures may have overestimates students at CMOX but not necessarily people with a desire to live/work there.

It is clear then that the medium – long term future of strategic planning has to be based on a more integrated model of job led migration and commutes, using demography as an input to economic modelling rather than a substitute.


PINS making the Status of Plan Examination Obtuse – Bedford a Classic Example

Something we have mentioned on this site many times is how the modern style of rolling examination and modification makes it extremely difficult to follow what has been going on unless you have been involved at every stage. It is like putting together a 2,000 peice jigsaw puzzle if you haven’t.

A good example is Bedford where the inspectors letter on main modifications make no reference to what the key issue of soundness is – the unexpected loss of a 4,500 units site, and the pragmatic response, a shortened plan period.  Why not just say so?

Customer friendliness should be the number one criteria in designing plan examination portals.  Document dumps are just not acceptable.

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.’