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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 


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’.


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.


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 []
Sent: 30 June 2019 07:49
To: Caroline Baird
Subject: RE: SODC Local Plan / new administration

Dear Caroline

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.


John 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 <>
Subject: SODC Local Plan / new administration

Dear John

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?

Kindest regards

Caroline Baird

A Green Party District Councillor for Culham!

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.


SODC submitted the Local Plan to the Secretary of State on 29 March.

Planning Inspectors Jonathan Bore and Nick Fagan have been appointed to undertake an independent examination into the soundness of the Plan.

A Programme Officer, Ian Kemp, will act as liaison between the Inspectors and the council or members of the public. Email: / Tel: 01527 861 711 / 0772 300 9166

The inspectors will examine the Local Plan’s evidence base (all the Council documents) and all the objections to it.

Site visits will be made by the Inspectors. It is likely that they will have questions which may be posed in advance of the hearing sessions.  We do not yet have a timetable for the Examination process. When we know more we will post a further update.

Meanwhile, more details can be found on the Council’s website:

Representations from the final consultation which ended in January can now be viewed on the Council’s website here (the last item on the list you will reach clicking this link).


The applicants have submitted new documents and in particular propose a new entrance off the A415.

A reminder that the application covers 94.5 hectares of rapidly disappearing Green Belt in Culham, immediately adjacent to the proposed SODC housing development.

The area is shown on the map below, coloured pink:

Click here for close up map:

This is a big commercial venture; the applicants are aiming for 162,000 visitors a year and are allowing for parking for 827 cars and an additional large overflow carpark.

There would be extensive built form including: Play Barn, Indoor Play and Science Area, Theatre,  Operational Storage Containers and Portacabin office, Animal Shelter, Shop, Party Rooms, Play Barn Café,  Toilet Block for Play Barn, Restaurant with patio and seats (with extension to follow),  Toilet Block for Restaurant, River hide, Glamping support facilities (eg showers etc), Car Park, overflow Car Park, Service Roads (and a lot of tracks wide and smooth enough for wheelchair access everywhere) AND ‘SITE MANAGER ACCOMMODATION’ which is a 2 bedroom house with kitchen, bathroom and lounge! 

We should all be alarmed that Year 4 plans for the Centre including Conference facilities and weddings….

The major change is a NEW entrance and junction from the A415, near the top of Tollgate Road, instead of the previously proposed Thame Lane entrance, and a 400m access road over these green fields. 

Traffic volumes and visitor numbers remain as previously.

Our previous responses WILL be taken into consideration but it is important that as many people respond as possible.


Scroll down to Comment button for online web comment form

or email:, quoting REF: P17/S4416/FUL

Please take a moment to consider the noise and traffic all this will create in Culham. Help protect our Green Belt.

We Need You! One Week Until Deadline




The deadline is Mon 18 Feb (5pm).

This is our last opportunity to comment before the Plan is sent to the Secretary of State.

Q. I responded to the last version of the plan – do I need to respond again?

YES, YES, YES. Only our responses to this round of consultation will be sent to the Planning Inspector.

Q. SODC don’t listen to our views so why should I bother?

The Inspector is ‘independent’ and has a duty to read and assess all comments before he/she can determine whether the plan is ‘sound’ so it is very important you make the effort.

Q. I don’t know what to say or how to fill in the form?

We can help you:

• The specific ‘Policy’ we need you to respond to is the one affecting Culham:

Write ‘STRAT 9’ in this box.

• Save Culham Green Belt will be responding ‘NO’ to the three questions.

1) Is it legally compliant?: NO.

2) Is it sound?: NO

3) Does it comply with the Duty to Cooperate?: NO

The form then asks for information about your answer:

Below are some things you might want to consider:

Government planning policy affords strong protection of Green Belt. A whole chapter of the National Planning Policy Framework, July 2018 is devoted to Protecting Green Belt. (You can access the NPPF from our website under the Key Information section).

Boundaries to Green Belt can only be changed if there are ‘exceptional circumstances’, ‘fully evidenced and justified’ and as a last resort.

Yet SODC’s Local Plan proposes altering Green Belt boundaries for 6 out of its 7 ‘strategic sites’, a total of 11,400 houses in Green Belt. The proposed site in Culham (STRAT 9) is currently in Green Belt and it would be the largest development in the whole of South Oxfordshire, a new settlement town of 3,500 houses (c.8000 people).

Campaigns such as Campaign to Protect Rural England, Need Not Greed Oxfordshire, South Oxfordshire Sustainability agree with Save Culham Green Belt that there are no ‘exceptional circumstances’ and that the Local Plan’s strategies are not sound, ‘positively prepared’, ‘justified’ or ‘deliverable’, all criteria which are demanded for a Local Plan to be approved and adopted.

You can look at arguments on these sites:

All these groups find that the Local Plan seeks to deliver about double the amount of houses that are actually needed by the district, including an excessive number of houses for Oxford City although the plan admits there is ‘significant uncertainty regarding the precise level of unmet need which Oxford City may find’. The plan was rushed through debate by councillors in the space of one week immediately before Christmas.

The form then asks you to set out changes you think are necessary to make it sound etc:

We suggest you say (again in your own words) that the whole plan is so unsound it is not possible to suggest a full set of modifications but that, for a start, STRAT 9 (Culham) should be removed entirely from the Plan.

Please do not hesitate to ask contact us via the website if you have questions or for our handout sheets.

HOW TO COMMENT:Complete online survey on SODC’s website:

1. Click the link and scroll down to ‘How to Comment’  

2. Download the Comment Form. You can fill this in online and email it to

or post it to SODC Planning Policy, 135 Easter Avenue, Milton, Abingdon OX14 4SB

Remember the deadline is 5pm Mon 18 Feb.

A summary of what is planned for Culham is on our website together with a link to SODC’s website.

Update on Revised Local Plan

A new round of Public consultation on the revised South Oxfordshire District Council Local Plan 2034 will begin on 7 January and run for six weeks until 18 February 2019. 

Save Culham Green Belt and Culham Parish Council will be holding a village meeting in St Paul’s Church on TUESDAY 15th JANUARY at 7pm to explain our concerns and the changes and implications for us and all of South Oxfordshire of this revised Plan.

We would like as many villagers as possible to attend. 


So-called scrutiny and debate of the Local Plan 2034 has been rushed through in three meetings of SODC district councillors:  13 December (Scrutiny Committee), 18 December (Cabinet) and 20 December (Full Council).  At all of these meetings there have been between 15 – 20 speakers from the public voicing objections, including 2 or 3 at each meeting from Save Culham Green Belt and Culham Parish Council.  Once again, our words are falling on deaf ears. It is as if the decision has already been made and that the meetings are just an outward show of democracy.

But we CAN and will fight this. Interestingly there was significant dissent within the council.  Whilst what one councillor refers to as ‘the ruling group’ got the Plan accepted in a majority vote of 22, there were 9 who voted against it (and 4 were absent).  Despite the strengthening of Green Belt protection in the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Culham remains the largest strategic site, but now, controversially and in open defiance of national policy, other Green Belt sites have been added. 

The revised Plan makes total land allocations for 28,000 new homes which exceeds the requirements for housing by 4,032. The revised Plan also includes an increase in houses to meet Oxford City’s ‘unmet need’:  4,950 (compared with 3,750 in the previous version of the Plan).

Along with some councillors we find this over-supply unacceptable. It will also generate problems with the ‘build-out’ rate which in turn means the District Council will come under pressure to grant planning permission anywhere if this over-supply is not built at the required rate.

The next steps:

1. The Public consultation period begins on 7 January and the final date for submitting responses is 18 February 2019. 

3. SODC will hold an ‘exhibition’ in Culham Parochial School on Weds 23 January, from 4pm to 8pm.

4. At the end of the public consultation period SODC will submit the Plan to an independent Inspector and there will be what is called an Examination in Public where we will present our arguments.

Please note that our responses submitted in October 2017 will NOT be sent to the Inspector so it is vital that everyone submits new responses in Jan/Feb.

At the Village meeting in the Church on Tues 15 January we will present an overview of the ‘New’ SODC Local Plan and explain the scale of the development and the most important points to cover in our objections.   We have not yet seen all the documents which will only be available  when consultation opens on 7 Jan, but we can already advise that the ‘exceptional circumstances’ cited for releasing the land from Green Belt in Culham are:

  1. The additional land provides an opportunity to deliver housing adjacent to one of the major employers in southern Oxfordshire”
  2. “Development in this location is at the heart of Science Vale and supports the delivery of much needed strategic infrastructure”.

The proposed Clifton Hampden bypass and the new river crossing that Oxfordshire County Council want to build between Didcot and Culham are being cited as ‘reliant on housing delivery at Culham’.

Land for alternative routes for this proposed new river crossing as well as land for an ‘Abingdon Southern Bypass’ which would cross the Burycroft, is also ‘safeguarded’ in the Local Plan 2034, as it had been in the 2017 version. In addition there is now mention of (though no map or route yet indicated) a ‘pedestrian/cycle bridge across the River Thames to link with Abingdon’.

The full breakdown of the new allocations for strategic development is:

  1. Culham:  approximately 1850 in the plan period, the remaining 1650 later; total 3,500.
  2. Berinsfield: approximately 1600 houses in the plan period; 100 beyond; total 1700.
  3. Chalgrove: approximately 2025 houses within the plan period, 975 beyond; total 3000.
  4. Northfield (near BMW) : approximately 1,800 houses – note this is also in Green Belt
  5. Grenoble Road: approximately 1700 houses with the plan period;  1300 beyond; total 3000 – note this is also in Green Belt.
  6. Wheatley: at least 300 houses – this is a brownfield site within Green Belt.
  7. Land north of Bayswater Brook (normally known as Elsfield and Wick Farm): approximately 1100 houses – note this is also in Green Belt. These sites are marked on the map below

The report in the Oxford Mail is here:

Please come to our village meeting in St Paul’s Church on TUESDAY 15th JANUARY at 7pm.  A leaflet drop will be made to each household.

Local Plan Still Includes 3,500 Houses in Culham

SODC have released certain documents about the revised Local Plan 2034.  To our horror, and despite the strengthening of Green Belt protection in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) published in July 2018, the Local Plan still includes 3,500 houses in Culham.

It reduces the number in Chalgrove from 3000 to 2025.

The full breakdown of the new allocations for strategic development is:

  1. Culham: 3500 houses. 1850 in the plan period, the remaining 1650 later.
  2. Berinsfield: approximately 1600 houses in the plan period.
  3. Chalgrove: approximately 2025 houses within the plan period
  4. Northfield (near BMW) : approximately 1,800 houses – note this is also in Green Belt
  5. Grenoble Road: approximately 1700 houses with the plan period – note this is also in Green Belt.
  6. Wheatley: at least 300 houses.
  7. Land north of Bayswater Brook: approximately 1100 houses.

These sites are marked on the map below:

The ‘exceptional circumstances’ cited for releasing the land from Green Belt in Culham are:

  1. The additional land provides an opportunity to deliver housing adjacent to one of the major employers in southern Oxfordshire.
  1. Development in this location is at the heart of Science Vale and supports the delivery of much needed strategic infrastructure.

Part-funding of a proposed Clifton Hampden bypass and the new river crossing that Oxfordshire County Council want to build between Didcot and Culham are being cited as ‘reliant on housing delivery at Culham’.

Land for alternative routes for this proposed new river crossing as well as land for a ‘Abingdon Southern Bypass’ which would cross the Burycroft, is also ‘safeguarded’ in the Local Plan 2034, as it had been in the 2017 version. In addition there is now mention of (though no map or route yet indicated) a ‘pedestrian/cycle bridge across the River Thames to link with Abingdon’.

The draft Local Plan 2034 will now be discussed at SODC’s Scrutiny Meeting (13 Dec), Cabinet Meeting (18 Dec) before Full Council vote (20 Dec).

If the Full Council vote to approve it there will be a new round of Public Consultation starting 7 January for a period of 6 weeks until 18 February 2019.

SCGB will be speaking at all the above SODC meetings and will hold a public meeting for villagers in the week of 7th January – date to be confirmed.

We will also hold a drop-in session (date also to be advised) to assist in completing the representation forms.

Have You Seen Our Film Yet?

The campaign is very grateful to Tasha Isaacson and Peter Kirby for making an excellent promotional film on Culham and the campaign.  Camera equipment and editing assistance were provided by the Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE Oxon).  CPRE are promoting the film, along with one by the village of Bampton (and two more to follow) on their website, and on Facebook and Twitter and have sent out a press release.

We have also sent the film (via YouTube link) to all 35 district councillors, to the planning policy officers, to the MPs John Howell and Layla Moran, to the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government to keep lobbying and make everyone aware of the need to protect Green Belt.

Please share it as far and wide as you can.

On Your Marks, Get Set…. The New Local Plan is Announced in December

South Oxfordshire District Council’s policy officers have nearly finished their reassessment of possible sites for strategic housing development. Their new proposal will be discussed by Councillors at Scrutiny Committee (13 Dec), Cabinet (18 Dec) and Full Council (20 Dec).

There will be a NEW round of public consultation in January.  As before we will assist villagers with the representation forms.

Under this timetable SODC are required to meet the tests of the revised National Planning Policy Framework. Let’s hope that reason and Green Belt will prevail…. Save Culham Green Belt will continue to oppose development on Green Belt.

Look out for news from SODC and from SCGB and be ready to support the campaign again in the event that thousands of houses are still planned for Culham.

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