Following the May election results and the democratic changes that resulted, SODC’s new administrative group, led by Lib Dems and Green councillors, is looking at options as regards the Local Plan.
Planning Policy ‘Officers’ (‘non-political’, salaried ‘Officers’ in charge of both the Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire councils) have summarized the four options they see open to councillors, as follows:
Option 1) ‘Allow the emerging Local Plan to continue through its examination. Any modifications made during the examination will be entirely at the discretion of the Inspectors’.
[This (of course) is the option Officers are recommending to councillors. i.e. proceed with their horrid Plan and let the Inspector decide]
Option 2) ‘Allow the emerging Local Plan to continue through its examination, but proactively recommend a series of main modifications to the plan. These changes will be entirely at the discretion of the Inspectors. There are no early conclusions from our Inspectors about the soundness of aspects of the Plan or if modifications are needed. The Plan cannot be changed unless the Inspectors find that part of the Plan unsound’.
[This means just making a few fiddly changes to wording and is meaningless.]
Option 3) ‘Withdraw the Local Plan from examination. The Council will make changes to the plan, then conduct a further Regulation 19 consultation. The extent of changes will need to fall within the remit of Regulation 19 consultation – i.e. not introduce new subject areas for the plan to cover. The Council would then submit a revised plan for examination’.
[Again, this is just tinkering with the Plan since nothing fundamental could be changed. And again we can only comment on whether we find the Plan ‘sound’, ‘justified’ or ‘legally compliant’].
Option 4) ‘Withdraw the Local Plan from examination. The Council will restart the plan making process. This will allow the Council to prepare a significantly different plan (subject to compliance with the law, and national policies and guidance). The Council would need to undertake at least two consultations (Regulation 18 and 19) before submitting the new plan for examination’.
[THIS IS THE OPTION SAVE CULHAM GREEN BELT WILL BE URGING COUNCILLORS TO TAKE AND IT IS THE ONLY OPTION WHICH ALLOWS THE NEW ADMINISTRATION TO RESPOND TO THE MANDATE OF SOUTH OXFORDSHIRE’S ELECTORS FOLLOWING THE MAY ELECTIONS. A COMPLETE NEW PLAN WOULD NEED TO BE FORMULATED.
The above options will be considered by SODC’s Scrutiny Committee on 2 July. Their recommendation to Cabinet will then be discussed on 10 July. A vote will be taken by Full Council on 18 July.
SCGB WILL BE SPEAKING AT ALL THESE MEETINGS TO REITERATE THE FACT THAT WE CONSIDER THE EMERGING LOCAL PLAN UNSOUND AND UNJUSTIFIED AND RIDDLED WITH CONTRADICTIONS AND HALF-TRUTHS.
Meanwhile, we have been in correspondence with JOHN HOWELL, MP :
He confirms respect for the democratic mandate of South Oxfordshire’s electorate:
From: HOWELL, John [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 30 June 2019 07:49
To: Caroline Baird
Subject: RE: SODC Local Plan / new administration
Thank you for your email. Central Government is not in the habit of overriding the democratic obligations of local government. Local government will however have to decide whether it wishes to continue to take advantage of Central Government offers such as the Growth Deal.
Howell OBE MP ACIArb FSA
Member of Parliament for the Henley Constituency
Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Nigeria | Member of the Council of Europe | Deputy Chairman Industry and Parliament Trust | Government Neighbourhood Planning Champion | Chairman Communities and Local Government Conservative Backbench Committee
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, Tel. 020 7219 6676
From: Caroline Baird
Sent: 27 June 2019 16:24
To: HOWELL, John <email@example.com>
Subject: SODC Local Plan / new administration
As you are, of course, well aware, there has been a huge democratic change in the administration of SODC following the May local elections and policy officers have warned that Central Government are ‘watching closely’.
I have spoken at one Scrutiny meeting and am registered to do so again next week as scrutiny was adjourned due to the limited time councillors had been given to review lengthy documents supplied just the previous day. I am aware that the new team are developing new policies and they need some time and space to formulate a Local Plan that is suitable given the new political environment and conforms to these realities.
From your position as our MP and/or in your position in the Department, are you able to offer any assurance that Central Government will respect the democratic changes and allow this breathing space, rather than taking more heavy-handed action?