Congratulations to Sam Casey-Rerhaye who is now the District Councillor for the ward that includes Culham: ‘Sandford and the Wittenhams’. Not only is Sam also on Culham’s Parish Council and on its campaign committee, Save Culham Green Belt, she also lives in the village.
The recent local elections, in which Sam won her seat, resulted in dramatic changes to South Oxfordshire District Council. Previously Conservative-led with a huge majority (the opposition being just two Liberal Democrats, 1 Labour and one councillor from Henley Residents Group), the Leader was able to ‘whip’ the leading group and vote through the potentially disastrous Local Plan. The council’s formation is now dramatically different: 12 Lib. Dem., 10 Con.,3 Lab., 3 HRG and five Green councillors. The council will now be led by a coalition between the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, with Sue Cooper as Leader. Our neighbouring council, the Vale of White Horse, which shares planning officers with SODC has similarly had its Conservative majority stripped (it has now 31 Lib. Dem., 6 Con. and 1 Green).
CPRE, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, is already urging the new leaders to scrap the controversial housing plans, including SODC’s Local Plan which was submitted to the Secretary of State at the end of March and is now being reviewed by two independent Inspectors. The Plan involves six strategic sites on Green Belt, including 3,500 houses in Culham.
Save Culham Green Belt is working with Sam and the Green councillors particularly, whose manifesto promised to protect the Green Belt, to see if the Local Plan can be halted. Importantly there is a process to do this. Part of the problem, however, is that the submission of the Local Plan was linked to a ‘Growth Deal’ agreed with Government by the five Oxfordshire councils and the Local Enterprise Partnership (OXLEP) to provide 100,000 houses in return for £215 million. No constituents voted for this tremendous growth to the county, however, and, whilst we recognise that housing is needed, the numbers of houses and the location of sites are highly controversial. They are not in line with natural growth and migration and will put enormous strain on infrastructure and will destroy natural resources and habitats, agricultural land, and flood plain.
There is now a chance to Save Culham Green Belt. We will let you know what help we need from our supporters.