See Oxford Mail article here: https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/18615359.oxfordshires-green-belt-used-new-homes-near-culham/
SCGB remonstrates with Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State over the announcement that the Examination in Public (EiP) of SODC’s Local Plan is to be held digitally using Microsoft Teams, and to begin on July 14th.
The following email has been sent to Jenrick and the Planning Inspectorate, co-signed by Culham Parish Council, Nuneham Courtenay Parish Council and Clifton Hampden Parish Council. The parishes of The Baldons and Sandford are sending their own letters as are other campaign groups.
29th May 2020
To: Rt Hon. Robert Jenrick, MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Community and Local Government
Culham Parish Council finds the requirement for South Oxfordshire District Council to hold its Examination in Public digitally/electronically to be demonstrably undemocratic for the following reasons:
1.. It disenfranchises many people – including the elderly and young – who cannot afford and/or do not have computers; or lack the technical ability.
- Many people who do have computers do not have sufficient broadband width to hold online discussions, let alone lengthy ones and are prioritizing use of the internet for their children’s schooling needs.
- Likewise, some people who do have computers do not have operating systems that easily accept software such as Microsoft Teams which has been one of the platforms indicated / or are unfamiliar with the installation and operation of the necessary video-conferencing software.
- Video-conferencing is still fraught with connectivity issues when many people from the same area all using the internet at the same time. Consistent sound is also a huge problem.
- Telephone representation has also been proposed as an alternative for some. This is not an adequate alternative to face-to-face conversation.
Simply stated, too many obstacles are put in our way.
Furthermore, and perhaps even more importantly:
- Many people are too busy/preoccupied with other matters connected with the WORLDWIDE health and economic disaster that Covid-19 has presented us with, including:
6.a) preoccupation with home-schooling
- b) caring for elderly relatives or neighbours
- c) redundancies and financial hardship
- d) mental stress
Culham Parish Council also finds it unreasonable for MHCLG to be keeping SODC to the deadline of December 2020 for adoption, requiring the EiP to be held in a matter of just weeks when the Inspector’s Matters and Issues and Guidance has only been issued this week.
Quite apart from all of the above:
- Villages, parishes and campaign groups are unable to undertake fund raising for professional and legal representation; it is our legal right to have due representation:
7.a) we cannot hold fetes, bring-and-buys, quizzes, plant sales etc, or any other of the normal ways a village would fund raise
7.b) we cannot go door-to-door
- c) many people have no income / vastly reduced income
- The SODC Local Plan is one of the most contentious Local Plans and it would be entirely wrong for it to be the ‘guinea-pig’ for electronic EiP.
It is unreasonable to conduct governmental business electronically without considerable advance warning, a detailed specification of technical requirements, and meaningful rehearsal for all parties concerned.
All of this leaves the whole process of SODC / MHCLG open to Judicial Review.
SCGB is now urgently fund-raising, initially focusing on raising £10,000 by 8th June in order to engage a Barrister and other specialists who will prepare and represent Culham Parish Council at the Examination in Public which is to be held digitally, using Microsoft Teams, starting on 14th July 2020.
If you are able to help, please get in touch.
At a very long Full Council meeting on Thursday 18 July 2019 there were 14 public speakers voicing objections to the Local Plan. Developers representatives were also present to press their arguments. Representatives of Culham Parish Council and Save Culham Green Belt spoke and we also had support from Clifton Hampden Parish Council.
SODC’s councillors voted on a motion put forward by the cabinet member for Housing to take what they call a ‘sensible pause’, rather than yet deciding whether or not to withdraw the Local Plan from the Inspector. The motion was accepted (20 ‘for’; 13 ‘against’).The wording of the motion is pasted below.
In summing up, the new leader, Sue Cooper, said that in the May local elections the swing was greater in South Oxfordshire than anywhere else because of dislike of the Local Plan. At the same time the new administration do not want to be irresponsible, and recognize that Didcot needs upgraded road infrastructure. She acknowledged that the Plan has ‘grossly over-stated housing numbers’. She said that the council need a ‘short breathing space’ in which to see what can be negotiated in relation to the £218 million Housing Infrastructure funding (HIF) (which is linked to delivering homes in Culham and Berinsfield) and what, if anything, can be carried forward to a ‘new plan’, making changes necessary in accordance with the Climate Change Act.
In the next six weeks or so officers and councillors will have discussions with various bodies (Oxfordshire County Council, the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government and Homes England) and will work on formulating some new policies.
In the meantime the cabinet member for Housing will write to the Inspector’s officer requesting that he pause /does not yet begin ‘examination’ of the Local Plan as it was submitted at the end of March.
It is unclear when the next meeting/s about the Local Plan will be, though there was much talk about Oxfordshire County Council having a September deadline. There may be a Council meeting in September, though under the ‘normal’ schedule the next one would be 10 October. We will keep you informed when we know more.
Council also approved a motion to ask the Leader to write to Government to urge completion of the East-West rail track, upgrade of Oxford-Didcot line, opening of Grove station and other rail upgrades, all to be prioritised above other infrastructure.
Wording of the motion:
(1) express [Council]’s determination to maintain its housing land supply and avoid speculative housing development;
(2) express its continued support for the Housing and Infrastructure Fund (HIF) funding and infrastructure projects that could be delivered by it;
(3) ask officers to explore with Oxfordshire County Council, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Homes England options for protecting the HIF funding whilst enabling the council to address concerns about the current emerging Local Plan 2034 including (but not limited to) climate change issues and Oxford City’s unmet housing need, and to report back to Cabinet and Council;
(4) recognising that the Climate Change Emergency is all too real and is recognised to be of key and statutory importance under the Climate Change Act 2008 and the associated objective of “zero carbon by 2050”, express its wish to do all that it can to respond through the Local Plan process;
(5) agree that as soon as practicable, alongside satisfactory progress being made on resolving issues in the emerging Local Plan, work on a subsequent Local Plan shall commence, strengthening climate change considerations
On 24 July 2018, following public consultation, the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, announced the publication of the Government’s revisions to National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
See link below:
Of particular interest to Save Culham Green Belt are the statements in the announcement that:
‘Whilst giving councils real flexibility to make the most of their existing brownfield land, the revised framework makes sure they exhaust all other reasonable options for development before looking to alter a Green Belt boundary.
The government has more explicitly outlined the protection of the Green Belt in England, explaining the high expectations and considerable evidence that would be needed to alter any boundary.’
The direct link to a pdf of the complete NPPF is here:
Section 13, paras 133-147 are specific to Green Belt.
See our page ‘Green Belt and Government Policy’ for more details.
South Oxfordshire District Council will have to reflect this new policy in their Local Plan, currently undergoing re-assessment.
John Cotton has quit as leader of the Tory party on the Council after being threatened with a motion of no confidence by fellow councillors. He remains (for how long?) Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC).
“South Oxfordshire District Council have released plans to build 3,500 homes in Culham near Abingdon. The new houses would be built on part of Oxford’s green belt and, if given the go ahead, could see the village of Culham overwhelmed. However, villagers are not going to let their voice go unheard and have set up a campaign group to protest the proposed Greenland build.”