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