Oxfordshire housing deal delivery plan submission delayed

The timescale for six Oxfordshire councils to submit to the government a delivery plan supporting England's first 'housing deal' has slipped by several weeks, it has been revealed.

The Great Western Park estate, Didcot, Oxfordshire
The Great Western Park estate, Didcot, Oxfordshire

In the Autumn budget, chancellor Philip Hammond announced that the government had agreed the very first 'housing deal' with Oxfordshire’s six councils.

In exchange for additional government funding worth £215 million over the next five years, the authorities provisionally committed to a target of delivering 100,000 new homes in the county by 2031 and adoption of a joint statuary spatial plan by 2021.

As part of the outline agreement, the government said it required the Oxfordshire councils "to produce a realistic delivery plan by 31 January 2018".

The agreement said: "This plan should be agreed with the [Homes & Communities Agency, now Homes England], and should demonstrate how government money provided through the deal is being spent in accordance with value for money requirements, alongside additional information on how a longer term step-change will be made to plan for and support the delivery of 100,000 homes by 2031."

The plan "will need to be submitted by Oxfordshire on or before 31 January 2018 and approved by HMG," it added, "before any funding can be drawn down as part of the deal".

However, yesterday, in response to a request from Planning, the Oxfordshire Growth Board, which represents the county’s five district councils and Oxfordshire County Council plus the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP), revealed that work on the delivery plan is still ongoing and it would only be submitted to the government after all the constituent councils discuss it this month.

A spokesman said that work on the delivery plan is "in the final stages of development" with government officials, would be "finalised in the coming days", and then "subject to discussion and decision by each of the councils during February".  "After that it will be submitted to the secretary of state," he added.

An additional statement from the board said that full agreement of the deal is "subject to agreement by each local authority in the county" and OxLEP.

"Over the next few weeks each of the five district councils will hold a full council meeting to agree the deal and the delivery plan," it added.

According to the statement, the county’s joint statutory spatial plan (JSSP) would "set the strategic direction for planning across the county to 2050" and "will complement the existing local plan process.

As part of the deal, the government has also promised "increased protection against speculative development", the statement added, and "is offering planning flexibilities on a time limited basis to provide protection". "This will allow councils collectively to prepare the JSSP without having to address the spectre of unplanned development while this major planning exercise is undertaken," it said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: "We continue to work closely with Oxfordshire’s six councils on the development of a delivery plan to take forward the Oxfordshire housing deal. Further announcements will be made in due course."

The growth board statement can be found here.

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