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