Author: SaveCulhamGreenBelt (Page 1 of 5)

Do you want to have 3500 houses built in Culham? Or not….?

South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) and Vale of White Horse DC (Vale)have produced a new Joint Local Plan 2041 (JLP41).

The deadline for responses is this Monday, 26 Feb, 2359 hrs

This is our last chance to try and persuade the council/s to reduce the number of houses planned for the land adjacent to Culham Campus (formerly Culham Science Centre).

[For those who do not already know, every local authority is required by Government to produce a Local Plan which sets out the development plans for its area (housing, employment, infrastructure etc), with policies that set standards expected of developers.]

3500 homes is a huge new settlement.  It was a most controversial allocation in the currently adopted Local Plan and is now even more so as it is by far the largest site allocated in either district. It is 20 times the size of Culham’s whole parish (we have 176 houses).

WHERE TO FIND THE PLAN DETAILS?

The Local Plan can be found online by googling ‘SODC Joint Local Plan’.  https://jlp.southandvale.gov.uk/  and a hard copy is in the local library and in the foyer at Abbey House.

You might like to know that housing NEED is calculated following a formula set by the Government, called the Standard Method (SM). For SODC the SM calculates a housing need of 605 homes x 20 years of the plan = 12,100.  On top, SODC is supposed to build 4950 for Oxford City, making a total of 17,050.

The SM is only advisory, and can be reduced to take into consideration constraints such as Green Belt and flood plain. However, the Joint Local Plan 2041 shows the expected housing SUPPLY from sites identified will be 21,759.  This is an excess of supply over need of 4709This ‘buffer’ is nearly 10,000 excess when Vale’s over-supply is also taken into account.  They simply don’t need to build as many houses as they plan.

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HOW TO RESPOND?

A) Via the council survey.  This is a 15 section survey with 80 questions (but you can skip sections). You can find it here: https://theconversation.southandvale.gov.uk/corporate-services/jlp_nutshellsurvey/consultation/intro/

B) if you only have 10 minutes or so to spare, you can simply send an email (don’t forget your name and postcode) to: jointheconversation@southandvale.gov.uk   If you are doing this and only making comments about Culham you must quote POLICY AS2 / Land Adjacent to Culham Science Centre.

If you already know what you want to say, that’s great.  If you would like some help, we can suggest that you propose (in your own words) something like:

• Policy HOU1 & HOU2: The supply of homes should align with housing need and not include excess homes.

• Policy AS2 / Culham: All the land west of the railway should be returned to Green Belt which should not be sacrificed for more houses than are needed.  700-800 homes are built on ‘Culham No 1 site’ in a modern, eco style, attractive to a science community adjacent to Culham Campus and encourage use of the railway and active travel (and discourage car use).  It should have the Local Centre currently proposed.    700-800 is still c. 5 times the size of Culham parish, but it is more proportional and sustainable, with facilities in Abingdon and Didcot. Bus and rail travel would need to be improved, but at a fraction of the cost and destruction of the planned roads and new bridges.

HOPES OF LEGAL CHALLENGE ARE AT AN END

Both Robert Jenrick and George Eustice, Secretaries of State for Housing and Environment respectively, declared last week in the national press that, with their plans to reform the planning system and agriculture, they will hand the next generation ‘an enhanced natural and built environment’. Jenrick said they will ‘keep all green-belt protections, with councils still responsible for local decisions’ (Jenrick, Daily Telegraph, 22 June) and Eustice said that the pandemic had shown that ‘our protected landscapes have never been more cherished’ and that Government will ‘improve access to nature, create new protected landscapes and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 … whilst maintaining vital local management and planning functions’ (Eustice, Telegraph, 24 June).

http://digitaleditions.telegraph.co.uk/data/637/reader/reader.html?social#!preferred/0/package/637/pub/637/page/15/article/192133

In Culham, and South Oxfordshire more generally, we know this to be false rhetoric: thanks to Jenrick’s intervention and coercion of district councillors to adopt the Local Plan 2035, despite the newly elected administration’s democratic mandate to withdraw it, the Plan IS now adopted and Green Belt in all six areas has been lost, forever.

Hopes of a legal challenge are now also at an end.  Community interest company, Bioabundance, set up by one of the district councillors, tried to file for judicial review but both the High Court and Appeal Court have refused to grant a statutory review; the judges pronounced that the grounds for challenge were ‘unarguable’. Bioabundance has had to pay the defendants’ costs.

The crux of the matter was that it was only possible to challenge the legal compliance of the plan making, not the content of the Plan itself. 

In our four-year campaign to try to save Culham Green Belt we have had right on our side, but the Johnson-Jenrick Government juggernaut has ultimately proved too powerful.  It became clear that the designs Government have for economic growth in Oxfordshire and ‘Science Vale’ in particular, have been long in the planning and on 17th June the Science Minister announced that the Canadian company, General Fusion, will build and develop a Fusion Demonstration Plant at Culham Science Centre. The plant will demonstrate General Fusion’s proprietary Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) technology (different to the tokamak approach used in JET and the world-wide project, ITER), paving the way for the company’s subsequent commercial pilot plant. Government’s desire to create a fusion industry and its plans for Culham, along with the presence of a rail station have led to Culham having to sacrifice 300 hectares of Green Belt to development.

Read more here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/general-fusion-to-build-its-fusion-demonstration-plant-at-ukaeas-culham-campus

TIMELINE

I am sure many of you will be wondering about the timeline for all the new houses.:

The Didcot to Culham river crossing, largely funded by a £215 million Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) grant from Government, is meant to be completed by 2024. No houses will be built until the road is built.  The Council’s trajectory gives 2026/27 for the first 100 houses (though the developer will be aiming to start 2025/26), with 250 houses a year thereafter.

Next steps: We are encouraging the creation of a consortium of local parish councils (e.g. Culham, Sutton Courtenay, Clifton Hampden, Appleford) to prepare for the imminent planning application for the river crossing which will be a HUGE set of documents, and very complex.  We imagine Oxford County Council will be arranging a drop-in exhibition for local residents. 

There will also be a consultation period for the full planning application for the housing development as well as local involvement in the Masterplan stage.

In the meantime I would like to thank Culham Parish Council and all the SCGB committee members for their huge contribution, with special thanks to BLM Law for so much pro-bono support; and also the many non-committee members supporting the SCGB cause who have given their time and expertise to the campaign. On behalf of SCGB I would also like to thank all those villagers and supporters who have generously donated to the costs of this campaign and our barrister representation at the Examination in Public and Bioabundance’s application to the High Court

Bioabundance granted court hearing in battle against Local Plan decision

On Thursday, 29 April 2021 Bioabundance’s barrister will argue that their case against the plan is arguable and should be heard in the High Court.

Bioabundance CIC had its initial application turned down for a statutory review in the planning court under s.113 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. But the group exercised its right to appeal and renew the claim at an oral hearing.

Here is the latest press release from solicitors Leigh Day: https://www.bioabundance.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2021/04/Press-Release_Leigh-Day_210408.pdf

Bioabundance continues to fundraise to meet the costs of the hearing and the ongoing legal campaign. https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/southoxonlocalplan/

CHERWELL CAMPAIGNERS GET GO AHEAD FOR HIGH COURT CHALLENGE

The new Community Interest Company, Bioabundance, is waiting to hear whether their application for statutory review (Judicial Review) of the SODC Local Plan 2035 (SOLP2035) will be accepted by the High Court. The company claimed three main grounds:

  • The unlawful pressure put on councillors to adopt the local plan  in December 2020; 
  • technical errors in calculating the plan’s housing numbers which overstated housing requirement;
  • the impact of housing overprovision on climate change.

Bioabundance fundraising is going well but they have still to reach their target of £35,000. Please visit their crowdjustice site: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/southoxonlocalplan

Bioabundance now has 70 members including six or so Parish Councils.  Please read more about Bioabundance and its very positive aims and actions at www.bioabundance.org.uk or here for all their online platforms: https://linktr.ee/bioabundance.cic

Good news from Cherwell campaigners

In the meantime, Cherwell campaigners, Cherwell Development Watch Alliance, who launched their own Judicial Review of the Cherwell Local Plan Partial Review, which proposes 4400 houses on Green Belt.  They filed back in October 2020 and heard just in mid-February that Judge, the Hon. Mrs Justice Lang has granted a full High Court hearing.  Cherwell Council and Robert Jenrick, together with 4 landowners will have to defend: Council plan to build on green belt challenged in High Court | Oxford Mail

Although this is no indication of the final outcome, it bodes well for acceptance of the Bioabundance challenge to SODC’s Local Plan.  Both challenge the number of houses for Oxford City and on Green Belt. 

Oxford-Cambridge Expressway cancelled (official)

And more good news: A huge win today (18 March) for the various No Expressway groups as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has today (18 March 2021) announced the cancellation of the Oxford-Cambridge (Ox-Cam) expressway, after analysis confirmed the proposed project was not cost-effective.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/oxford-to-cambridge-expressway-project-cancelled-as-transport-secretary-looks-to-alternative-plans-for-improving-transport-in-the-region

The Government still has massive aims for what it terms the ‘Oxford-Cambridge Arc, home to cutting-edge research, globally renowned science and technology clusters and some of the most productive places in the country’.

If anyone has the stamina to read more, check out this document: Planning for sustainable growth in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc (publishing.service.gov.uk)

CAN YOU DONATE TO THE LEGAL CHALLENGE OF THE LOCAL PLAN?

Bioabundance Community Interest Company has now filed its case with the High Court for statutory review of SODC’s Local Plan. 

THIS IS NOW OUR LAST CHANCE to challenge, stop or change this hugely destructive Plan and Robert Jenrick’s intervention in our local planning.

Bioabundance need to raise an initial £10,000 within days and are actively seeking donations; they have set up an appeal on Crowdjustice:

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/southoxonlocalplan/

Do consider taking swift action and making a donation, however modest. 

(It is very easy to do:  click the link above, decide the amount you wish to donate and enter your name and credit/debit card details.  It is a pledge at this stage, with the amount taken from your card if the fundraising target is reached).

**Please also share the link on Facebook/Twitter or via email by following the easy path offered on the Crowdjustice site**

Next steps: Bioabundance now wait to hear if the court will accept it, and for the cost order under the Aarhus Convention.*

(*There may be some delay (as background Cherwell Development Watch Alliance (CDWA) launched their legal challenge to the partial Cherwell District Council plan in October and are still waiting to hear). 

This is the Press Release that was sent out:

High Court case filed against South Oxfordshire District Council

On the 21st January 2021 Bioabundance Community Interest Company (“Bioabundance”) filed in the High Court for statutory review of the South Oxfordshire Local Plan.

Bioabundance is challenging the South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035 on the grounds of climate change, improper pressure put on councillors to adopt the plan, and excessive and incorrectly calculated housing numbers.

The Local Plan, which allocates areas for housing development, was forced through the Council by interventions from the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government. This was against the will of newly-elected councillors who sought to withdraw the plan and start on a new one with climate change at its heart.

“This is a pioneering action by Bioabundance, and our last chance to put our environment before housebuilder profit in South Oxfordshire. This is the first time a local plan has ever been challenged because of our climate and ecological crisis.” Dr Sue Roberts, Bioabundance Chair

Legal advice for this important environmental challenge has come from lawyers with a successful track-record, such as working with Plan B and Friends of the Earth on the climate challenge of Heathrow’s 3rd runway (since overturned). 

“We thank our excellent legal team for filing this claim and supporting our urgent action which responds to climate breakdown and the collapse of the natural world”, Dr Sue Roberts

“Local community groups, some of whom have fought this plan for years, are now joining Bioabundance and are delighted that this action is being brought forward” Ian Ashley Bioabundance Treasurer

Communities all over South Oxfordshire are worried about this plan, and are joining with Bioabundance to challenge it as it: 

  • will be catastrophic for an already massively-weakened natural ecosystem
  • will increase carbon emissions markedly in the district 
  • will destroy the countryside and our part of the Green Belt around Oxford 
  • provides four times the number of homes that can even be filled, based on current trends (see household projections from the Office for National Statistics, and com/@ecomorph)

“This action is particularly important for South Oxfordshire itself. The Local Plan is incompatible with Council’s April 2019 declaration of a climate emergency, and its target for the district to be zero carbon by 2030,” Dr Amanda Griffin, Bioabundance Member 

Notes to Editors 

  1. Bioabundance Community Interest Company is the campaigning arm of South Oxfordshire Sustainability, itself founded in 2011; it works to protect and restore wildlife in South Oxfordshire and has many projects on the go.
  2. Bioabundance has over 30 members, including parishes and individual campaign groups.
  3. South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035
  4. If the public wish to donate funds to support this legal action, they can donate here:

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/southoxonlocalplan/

www.bioabundance.org.uk – press queries: email bioabundance@gmail.com or phone Sue Roberts (Bioabundance Chair) 07913 896 874

PRESS COVERAGE

There has been some good national press coverage so far:

     28 January / The Guardian*

 https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/28/uk-government-plan-to-build-24000-homes-faces-legal-challenge

  28 January / BBC News*

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-55825679

 *CLARIFICATION ON HOUSING NUMBERS

Some of you may be confused by the bewildering differences in figures quoted in various articles. I thought it would be helpful to throw some light on this major issue (which is in the Local Plan document if you know where to look, Table 5c, Page 88).  I will set this out below:

Committed components: 16,360
made up of:
Houses already built in the plan period (which although only just adopted runs from 2011 until 2035): 7,178
Sites under construction / with planning already granted: 9,182   

New components (and the figure SODC are cunningly citing): 13,696

made up of:

New strategic sites (e.g. Culham the largest @ 3500, Berinsfield 1700, Northfields, Bayswater Brook: 11,785

Grenoble Road, Wheatley & Chalgrove)

Neighbourhood Development Plans: 454
Neighbourhood Development Plans outstanding: 211
Nettlebed allocations: 46  
Windfall allowance:  1,200 

TOTAL (in plan period to 2035): 30,056

TOTAL including 2815 houses delivered beyond 2035 by the strategic site like Culham: 32,871

▪ Office of National Statistics (ONS) assessed housing need in South Oxfordshire is 556 houses per year which would be: 13,344 for the 24 year period 2011-2035.

▪ SODC use out of date figures from 2014 of 627 houses per year

▪ Then, because of a Growth Deal with Government and all Oxfordshire councils, they inflate this to 775 per year

▪ Then they add 4950 as South Oxfordshire’s share of houses for Oxford City who say they cannot build within their boundary …

This brings the assessed need to 23,550 homes.

BUT it is the excess and buffer (32,871 allowed for in the plan instead of 23,550) that is the major cause for concern. 

We do not question that affordable housing,  in reasonable numbers, and in sensible brownfield places/urban areas are needed.

We need to protect our green spaces, our climate and air quality and our endangered nature.

NEW COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY LAUNCHES A LEGAL CHALLENGE TO THE LOCAL PLAN – FUNDRAISING INSTRUCTIONS TO FOLLOW SOON

1. As previously advised, in December and under pressure from directions imposed by Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, the council of SODC adopted the Local Plan 2035, complete with its six strategic sites in Green Belt including 3500 houses in Culham (and 1700 in Berinsfield).

2. Post-adoption there is a strict limit of six weeks in which ‘Any person aggrieved by the adoption of the South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035 may make an application to the High Court under Section 113 of the Planning Compulsory Purchase Act 2004’.

3. It is important to understand that such a challenge can only be brought on the grounds that there has been a legal or procedural error. It is not possible to attack the decision to adopt the plan on its merits (or lack of merits) or whether it is bad for the residents and businesses of South Oxfordshire. The political background is also irrelevant.

4. A new and fully registered Community Interest Company (CIC), Bioabundance, has been set up by other campaign groups who, like SCGB, opposed the adoption of the Plan (Directors: Dr Sue Roberts, Ian Ashley, Secretary: Lisa Buchan).  

5. Bioabundance has pro-bono legal advice from the lawyers who provided support to the successful legal challenge relating to the third runway at Heathrow (since overturned at Appeal…) The lawyers believe there is a ‘reasonable’ case for challenging the Local Plan (LP2035) as a whole on the grounds of:

    • Climate change measures
    • Improper pressure put on councillors to adopt the plan
    • Excessive and incorrectly calculated housing numbers
    • Inadequate consultation

6. Bioabundance first sent a 22-page Pre-Action Protocol letter (PAP) to South Oxfordshire District Council and have now applied to the High Court on 20 Jan for Judicial review of LP2035.

7. A CIC cannot be set up solely to launch a Judicial Review so the existence of Bioabundance will  be ongoing whatever happens; it will be proactive in challenging breaches in environmental law (eg pollution with sewage), and exerting pressure to ensure that, as far as possible, climate change mitigation / offsetting is solid and that things such as heritage and conservation areas are protected.  

8. Bioabundance will need to raise an initial £10,000 to take the case forward. They are currently awaiting a ‘cost order’ limited by the Aarhus Convention. For the High Court stage it is estimated that a further £30k will need to be raised. 

9. Save Culham Green Belt and Culham Parish Council (now corporate members of Bioabundance) wholeheartedly support this last effort to avoid catastrophe for the district, though there can be no guarantees of success. Many of us will be donating personally and invite you to consider a donation. 

10. CROWDFUNDING: The crowdjustice funding site can be found here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/southoxonlocalplan/

More information on Bioabundance Community Interest Group is on their website: www.bioabundance.org.uk

LOCAL PLAN ADOPTED

This update from SCGB bears the unwelcome news that you may already have read in the press:

SODC VOTE TO ADOPT LOCAL PLAN

On Thursday evening, 10 December, following a 3.5 hr online meeting, South Oxfordshire district councillors voted to adopt the hideous Local Plan 2035 with its 3500 houses in Culham and a new river crossing from Didcot to Culham, arriving at the A415 perilously close to the Europa School.

HOW COUNCILLORS VOTED

The motion to adopt the Plan, proposed by the Cabinet Member for Planning, Anne-Marie Simpson (who lives in Cholsey), and seconded by David Rouane (Didcot North East), was carried as follows:


FOR : 17

AGAINST: 7

ABSTAINED: 9

Basically all Conservative, Labour and Henley Residents Group councillors voted for adoption. The Liberal Democrat and Greens ruling group were either split or abstained.  Didcot and Henley come off well in this Plan and this is reflected in the voting.

SPEECHES
There were a number of powerful speeches by campaigners urging council to reject the plan and to use their vote, rather than abstain.  Many councillors also gave emotional speeches about their dilemma.

CENTRAL GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION

The cleft stick the ruling group found themselves in was due to the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, imposing a ‘direction’ on the Council (on 03 March 2020) to ‘progress the plan to examination and adoption by December 2020’, under the threat of either doing so himself or passing responsibility of the district to the (Conservative-led) higher authority, Oxfordshire County Council.  In other words, the choice was between adopting the Plan, drawn up by the previous Conservative-led administration, or the Secretary of State using his powers under section 27(2)(b) of the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (2004 Act) to adopt it himself.

If you would like to read Jenrick’s letter, here is the link: https://www.southoxon.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/09/200303-SofS-SODC-Decision-Letter-1.pdf

As one Green councillor wrote to me after the vote:

…  there was no way that we could win the battle; if we voted against it would have been a victory on a minor skirmish, before total annihilation. Jenrick was determined to force that plan through, and he had the power under the 2004 Act to do exactly that, with perhaps also the consequence of  abolishing South Oxfordshire District Council as an act of revenge, and passing its planning power to OCC.

You may not know who we are personally as District Councillors, but as after 20 years as a Parish Councillor seeing the vapid District Councillor, I decided to stand. I was elected because I am active in the community, and not just a party member. I know that some County Councillors are exactly that, idle and ignorant, so the prospect [of] people like that running my District made the surrendering to overwhelming odds on Thursday the least worse option.

I would say that I have been mightily impressed by my other Green Councillors, highly educated, articulate and hardworking, and if all local councillors were as remarkable as them we would all be in a better place.

WHAT HAS SCGB DONE?
Save Culham Green Belt has fought an incredibly long and hard fight and done everything we could to try and stop this Juggernaut. In addition to arranging petitions, rallies, village information meetings and getting wide coverage in local press, we have fielded speakers at every single council meeting about the Plan since May 2017 (over 3.5 years). We commissioned reports for the Parish Council’s submissions to public consultations, employing transport and planning consultants as well as professional local environmental experts and we have had on-going pro-bono legal support thanks to one of our committee members. Culham was the subject of an hour-long BBC2 documentary in Jan 2018, we appeared on Channel 4 News in March 2018, BBC South in August 2020 and on BBC’s Countryfile programme in November 2020.  We made a film with support from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) which was widely circulated, and, most recently, we raised £11,600 from generous members of the committee and wider village to fund a traffic consultant and a barrister from Kings Chambers, Manchester, to represent the Parish Council at the Examination in Public in July, the first ever Examination to be held virtually via Microsoft Teams. It is the quite appalling erosion of local democracy and wielding of power that Robert Jenrick has exercised which has brought about this very sad situation.

OUR NEXT STEPS

Our barrister is working, potentially with other barristers, to see what grounds we have to challenge Central Government.  Two central planks of the 2019 Conservative manifesto (pages 29 & 31 respectively) were:

We remain committed to devolving power to people and places across the UK. Our ambition is for full devolution across England, building on the successful devolution of powers to city region mayors, Police and Crime Commissioners and others, so that every part of our country has the power to shape its own destiny.’

We will protect and enhance the Green Belt. We will improve poor quality land, increase biodiversity and make our beautiful countryside more accessible for local community use. In order to safeguard our green spaces, we will continue to prioritise brownfield development, particularly for the regeneration of our cities and town’

Jenrick’s coercive direction and not-so-veiled threats are in direct contradiction with these Manifesto statements.  We have not given up the fight yet.  The clock is ticking: with the Plan ‘adopted’ we have 6 weeks in which to launch a legal challenge.  If there are grounds we will need to raise more than 5 times what we have raised previously and will need everyone to support a crowdfunding effort.  More news soon.

Letter sent to Oxford Mail/Times by district councillor, Sam Casey-Rerhaye.

Dear Editor,

A couple of weeks ago, The Sunday Times mentioned people referring to South Oxfordshire as ‘the dustbin’ for property developers. Being surrounded by AONBs, some inside the district itself, means the land available for the ‘Growth Deal’ policy should be limited in this district to the narrow strip between the Chilterns AONB and Oxford’s greenbelt. But supreme efforts have been made to circumvent this – apparently leading to this ‘dustbin’ rumour- a further insult to the district after the ‘dump it on Didcot’ housing-without-infrastructure policy of previous years.

In other news, Oxford University makes a lifesaving, not for profit, vaccine with Astra-Zeneca. Some of the best news we have had this year and for which we are all extremely grateful and proud.

There’s not much consistency in these two pieces of news. Oxford’s greenbelt has been accepted for the last 50 or so years as a successful tool in preventing urban creep and acknowledged as protecting the setting of this historic and successful city. The two universities and their science and technology spin offs, research at Harwell, Culham and Rutherford-Appleton, the John Radcliffe and other Oxford hospitals,  plus the Cowley car works (now converting their production to electric cars) are what this area is rightly known for and of which we are proud to be part.

So why is South Oxfordshire now a ‘dustbin’? What has led us to this point? It’s a long and winding road, but it starts with a poor economic policy, failing government funding formulas for universities, and, quite likely, housing policy written by Conservative party funders. Colleges that own land in Oxford’s greenbelt are now very keen to develop this land, their fiduciary duty to their college pushing them in this direction while the commodification of education means tuition fee limits leave colleges in deficit (though it remains true that many colleges are still very wealthy). And then there are the government agencies involved here: Homes England and UK Atomic Energy Authority – both behaving like they are private property developers.

But just building more houses will not provide the affordable housing we know is needed here (and there are limits to the success story of Oxfordshire: housing unaffordability and areas of continual deprivation being two of them). They’ll be executive homes and ‘investment properties’, a clear lesson from the last 10 years of ever-rising house prices and ever more unaffordable houses built.

I am a Councillor in South Oxfordshire, having been elected in the swing away from the Conservatives in May 2019, a swing in large part created by the ditching of protections for that greenbelt and the constraints of South Oxfordshire’s land in the Conservative’s draft Local Plan. The Secretary of State Rt Hon Robert Jenrick’s legal direction on us (firstly to stop us doing anything at all with the Plan for a full 5 months, wasting time while he worked on his General Election campaign, then, secondly, to force the Plan through examination and to consider adoption by this December) has now come to a head.  

In December, South Oxfordshire Councillors must consider the final report (not yet published at time of writing) from the Inspector on this draft Local Plan and consider adopting it in full. If we do not vote to adopt it, there are a whole raft of other things the SoS is legally able to do: accept the Plan himself for South Oxfordshire; bring commissioners in to run the Council under ‘value for money’ rules (while many other councils face bankruptcy), give all Planning powers to the County Council who have agreed to accept them if offered; take Planning powers into the Ministry and charge the District Council for this, and probably other powers of which I am not even aware. As there is another election coming this May for the County Council, we’re not expecting Rt Hon Robert Jenrick to do us any favours.

The Green/Libdem-led Council has achieved a lot in the last 18 months. We suggested improvements to this draft Plan where possible, and hope these will be accepted by the Inspector (increasing the carbon-efficiency of the homes built in the Plan as far as legally possible being one) and we have developed a council Corporate Plan for the district which will be in place until 2024. A vision that puts climate change, nature restoration, well-being and prosperity at the heart of what the Council does. We have started the process for building properly affordable, zero carbon affordable-to-run homes, we have brought both nature restoration and a questioning of growth for its own sake into the conversation across Oxfordshire, we have pushed through Civil Parking Enforcement working with other councils, and acted decisively on building a new, properly sustainable Council headquarters in Didcot after so much dither in the previous administration.  He can’t take that way from the people of South Oxfordshire, even if we are now considered a dustbin.

Yours faithfully,

Sam Casey-Rerhaye (Councillor for Sandford & the Wittenhams)

 

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION SET UP BY THE LIB DEM AND GREENS TO HALT THE LOCAL PLAN

Please read on – we urgently need your help.

Examination of the Local Plan

The Inspector has now released his ‘Preliminary Conclusions’ following the Examination in Public of SODC’s Local Plan (actually not held in ‘public’, but over Microsoft Teams).

Incredibly he has found the plan ‘sound’ and, in the words of the barrister hired by Save Culham Green Belt on behalf of Culham Parish Council: “It’s as if the examination hearings need not have happened for all the attention he has paid to our case” (or that of any of the other campaigns for that matter). See end of this email for an extract from the Inspector’s letter:

What next?  See Petition explained below 

We have to do all we can, in collaboration with other village groups (in Garsington and Elsfield for example), to stop this hideous plan being adopted.  Lib Dems and Green councillors (the leading group) are attempting to halt it, even though this is contrary to the wishes of the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick.

This is explained in a short video:

Please, please help us by signing, and sharing the petition they have set up. It takes only seconds. The link to the petition is here: http://www.oxonlibdems.uk/sodclocalplan

When you have signed, please, everyone, share the video and petition links as widely as you can this week (email, Facebook, Twitter)  so we can get as much interest as possible. 

Thank you

Extract from The Inspector’s preliminary conclusions (which are not expected to alter substantially) regarding the Culham site (STRAT 9):

The allocations next to Culham Science Centre (STRAT9) and at Berinsfield (STRAT10) also require alterations to the Green Belt boundaries, but they are also strongly justified by the evidence. Science Vale contains an important cluster of technological activity, and supporting economic growth includes ensuring that there is enough housing, at the right price, for those working in that sector. STRAT9 is next to an important employment centre which is receiving substantial investment, and has a rail station with the potential for an improved service, […] supported by major infrastructure improvements arising from the successful HIF bid.” 

If you would like to read the letter in full, please click this further link below (all documents pertaining to the Examination in Public can be found on SODC’s website): http://www.southoxon.gov.uk/sites/default/files/IC12%20-%20Inspector’s%20Preliminary%20Conclusions%20Letter%20280820.pdf

SODC LOCAL PLAN – UPDATE FROM SAVE CULHAM GREEN BELT

Having raised £10,000 for professional advisors, Save Culham Green Belt and Culham Parish Council fielded a strong team at the recent ‘Examination in Public’ of the SODC Local Plan (held digitally over Microsoft Teams).  We had a barrister, environmental expert, and traffic consultant, as well as speakers from SCGB and a valuable contribution from a young member of the village about the climate emergency.

We have to warn you, however, that from the Inspector’s summing up session last Friday it seems he has accepted the inflated housing numbers, the ‘spatial strategy’ and all the sites except possibly Chalgrove until he has some more info (ironically the only site not in Green Belt), but will likely accept that one too. So, the Culham site has been accepted as ‘sound’ including all the boundaries and all the numbers (3,500 houses).   We are appalled.  We still await the formal written decision and statement.

The inspector was given a guided tour of Culham Science Centre on 12th August.  Sam Casey-Rerhaye, our District Councillor and Parish Council Chair, was invited to accompany him too, for ‘balance’.  But as we know, Government, led by Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, is pushing this Plan through with Culham Science Centre being used as a political tool. We did, at the last moment, gather a good twenty or so demonstrators with excellent banners and the Inspector acknowledged our presence as he drove in.

Oxford Mail covered the event.  Here is the link

https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/18651449.culham-residents-protest-new-homes-near-culham-science-park/

and we also made the local television news on BBC South with a 5 minute report on the later evening news with four short interviews; and a shorter one earlier in the day. 

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