Central Government are now riding rough shod over local democracy and our elected district councillors. As per the previous update, the Secretary of State for Housing, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, has weighed into the SODC Local Plan process. Last October he put a ‘holding direction’ on the district council so that they could not discuss possible withdrawal of the hideous Local Plan (which still includes 3,500 houses in Culham and six strategic sites in Green Belt), or hear representations. This hold was in place for 5 months.

Then on 7th January he wrote to the Council leader saying that he was considering passing the ‘preparation, revision or adoption’ of the Local Plan to ‘the upper-tier County Council’. The County Council held a vote as to whether they would accept this and the motion was passed 29-16 with 4 abstentions.

Latest intervention

Last week Jenrick issued a NEW DIRECTION: again, just hours before the Council were due to hold public meetings. He ‘directed’ SODC:

To progress the Plan through examination and adoption by December 2020.
To report monthly to his officials on progress

And if they should fail to comply he would take ‘further intervention action’ (which means he would hand the control of the Plan to the County Council).

On Thursday 5th March there were Cabinet and Full Council meetings. Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, had registered as a public speaker and declared the Local Plan a ‘good plan’. Furthermore he said he considers the Culham site ‘the most sustainable location in Oxfordshire’. Speeches, with strong arguments against the Local Plan, were made by Save Culham Green Belt, Garsington village, A Better South Oxfordshire campaign group, Extinction Rebellion and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE). Councillors, many of whom made their negative feelings about the Local Plan and Jenrick’s intervention clear, felt they had no option but to pass the motion to acknowledge these orders and accept that the Plan has to proceed to Examination, rather than lose control of district planning completely. It was passed 28 for and 2 against. (Those against were Simon Hewerdine and Elizabeth Gillespie, both independent councillors).

It was a very sad day for democracy, for South Oxfordshire and for Culham.

Next steps

There will be a Public Examination before long (June maybe?). Save Culham Green Belt remains committed to the fight to stop the building of a new town in Culham on Green Belt. We will need to raise funds to help ensure that we employ the best advisors to support us when we engage with the Inspectors at the Examination of the Plan. We will be in contact with you once we finalise our plans for fund-raising. Please be ready to help us all you can.

Recent press

Two recent press articles are attached can be found:

Here and here.

All correspondence between the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and SODC can be read on the SODC website here:

http://www.southoxon.gov.uk/services-and-advice/planning-and-building/planning-policy/local-plan-2034