Extraordinary Government Invention in Local Plan Progress

10th October 2019

Overnight, South Oxfordshire District Council have been issued with a temporary holding direction by Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, which effectively removes the authority’s ability to take action in respect of its Local Plan.

It is not clear if a scheduled meeting of Full Council, where the Local Plan was due to be discussed, will go ahead this evening.

The Council are directed not to take any step in-connection with the adoption of the Plan, whilst the minister considers the matter further. The direction will remain in place until it is withdrawn, or a further direction is given.

The placing of the holding direction is a remarkable intervention in the progress of the emerging South Oxfordshire Local Plan at such a late stage, but reflects the concern at the implications of withdrawing the plan on the growth of the area and wider County and the associated Government funding for infrastructure which could be at risk.

In other news across the County, Vale of White Horse District Council adopted Local Plan Part 2 last night. The plan provides certainty by planning for further sites for development to supplement those identified in Local Plan Part 2.

Together, the Part 1 and Part 2 plans comprise the Development Plan for the district which plans for the district’s housing need and an agreed portion of Oxford’s Unmet Need agreed through the growth deal.

Director Jon Westerman commented

“The remarkable intervention of the Secretary of State within South Oxfordshire, highlights the tensions between the identified need for growth and investment across the County with the resistance to change and new development. The planning system if harnessed correctly can deliver high quality outcomes but this requires an up to date plan in place. Collaboration between the private and public sector with the aim of producing sustainable connected and attractive places to live, should be a common objective.

In Edgars view a delay in the delivery of the South Oxfordshire local plan will have significant implications across the County in terms of HiF funding from the Growth Board and the shared objectives of improvements to infrastructure deficiencies. A further risk could be the protected housing supply position- this fragile position in our view will be exploited. No one interested in high quality outcomes will wish to see a return to planning for growth by appeal where control of quality is removed locally. Whilst this invention may seem a blow to democracy at a local level the implication of this action not being taken could be significantly worse for South Oxfordshire and the County as a whole.”

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