In a report issued this week, inspector Malcolm Rivett concluded that the Vale of White Horse Council’s Local Plan 2031: Part 1 could be adopted by the authority, subject to a number of modifications being made to the strategy.
In his report, Rivett concluded that the council’s assessment that the exceptional circumstances exist to justify removal from the green belt of four housing allocation sites to accommodate around 1,500 homes "is a soundly based one".
The council’s proposal to remove the sites at land to the north of Abingdon and at Kennington and Radley "would have only limited impacts on the function of the green belt, primary being localised encroachment of the countryside", the report said.
The draft plan identifies a plan-period housing requirement of at least 20,560 dwellings, which equates to the objectively assessed need for new housing in the district, according to the inspector’s report.
The inspector concluded that both the objectively assessed need figure and the plan’s 20,560-home housing requirement figure are "soundly-based".
However, the inspector’s report included main modifications intended to clarify the approach to, and timescale for, providing in the Vale of White Horse for unmet housing needs from other districts, in effect giving the council a two-year deadline to plan to meet Oxford’s overspill.
The report said that a recent agreement that the district will seek to accommodate 2,200 dwellings of Oxford City’s housing needs "has occurred very late in the plan examination process".
In theory, it would be possible for the plan to be further modified to allocate sites to meet this need, the inspector’s report said. But Rivett said that such an approach would "inevitably delay adoption of the plan by many months, contrary to the government’s aim for local plans".
The modifications require the council to address the unmet need in its Local Plan: Part 2. While this document is in preparation, the district’s housing need will be 20,560 homes, the modifications stipulate.
But should the council not adopt the Part 2 plan within two years of the adoption of the Part 1 document, "then from that time until the adoption of the Part 2 plan the council’s housing requirement will be 20,560 plus the agreed quantum of Oxford’s unmet housing need to be addressed within the Vale of White Horse district", the modifications say.
The inspector’s report said: "The rendering out of date of relevant policies of the plan if a five-year supply of housing could not be demonstrated to cater for both the Vale’s own and Oxford’s unmet housing needs will be a suitably strong, and thus sound, incentive for the council to provide for its agreed share of Oxford’s housing needs as soon as possible."
Matthew Barber, leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: "After a process that has taken several years and has seen communities across the Vale contributing to the local plan we are now in a position to have much greater control over all development in the Vale."
The inspector’s report is available here.