South Oxfordshire adds three new green belt sites to revised local plan

Three major green belt housing sites totalling 4,600 homes are set to be added to a new version of the South Oxfordshire draft local plan, which now proposes contributing more towards neighbouring Oxford City Council's unmet need.

Chalgrove Airfield: future of site remains uncertain
Chalgrove Airfield: future of site remains uncertain

In March this year, councillors voted against submitting the South Oxfordshire plan for examination after officers warned that uncertainty over the delivery of 3,000 homes at the airfield could lead to the plan being found unsound.

Landowner Homes England had been unable to reach an agreement on the site’s future with tenant the Martin-Baker Aircraft Company and has threatened the use of compulsory purchase order (CPO) powers

The decision led to the resignation of council leader John Cotton, who had been pushing for the plan to be submitted based on the Chalgrove Airfield allocation.

South Oxfordshire subsequently sought approval from the government for a delay to its local plan process while officers examined alternative sites for inclusion in the strategy.

Now, council officers have produced an updated draft local plan, which still includes Chalgrove Airfield but also three sites adjacent to the city of Oxford. 

These are: land at Grenoble Road near the Kassam Stadium, Bayswater Brook to the north east of Oxford, and Northfield to the south east of the city. 

According to an officers report, the plan earmarks Grenoble Road for about 1,700 homes, land north of Bayswater Brook for about 1,100 homes, and Northfield for approximately 1,800 homes. 

The strategic allocations all involve removing green belt and revising green belt boundaries, the report states.

In a statement, the council said inclusion of the sites was intended "to make the plan sound and should ease concerns about any individual housing sites not being deliverable". 

The new plan also proposes providing a total of 4,950 homes to meet neighbouring Oxford City Council's unmet need, in line with an agreement signed by the county's planning authorities.

The previous version of the plan had proposed just 3,750 homes towards Oxford City Council’s unmet need - 1,200 less than the other authorities in the county believed was necessary.

The plan now proposes a total of 22,775 new homes up to 2033, compared to 21,000 homes in the previous version. It also allocates 37.5 hectares of employment land.

Jane Murphy, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: "It’s vital we have a sound plan that has the best chance of being approved by a planning inspector.

"We’re aiming to publish the plan in the new year to give everybody a final chance to provide their thoughts, which we will then submit to the government along with the plan in March."

Susan Brown, leader of Oxford City Council, added: "We welcome the inclusion of land to the South of Grenoble Road known as the South Oxford Science Village, as a mixed-use development, including housing, in the recently published South Oxfordshire District Plan.

"The city council has a long-held view that urban extensions are best located on the edge of the city, especially as they are then well-placed to address a proportion of Oxfordshire’s unmet housing need."

According to South Oxfordshire Council, the draft plan will be considered by its scrutiny committee on 13 December, then by the cabinet on 18 December.

The cabinet will make a recommendation to be considered at the full council meeting on 20 December, where councillors will vote on the plan going out for public consultation on 7 January for a minimum of six weeks. 

South Oxfordshire is one of six local authorities signed up to the Oxfordshire housing and growth deal, requiring the councils to produce a joint statutory spatial plan for delivery of 100,000 homes between 2021 and 2031, in return for £215 million of government infrastructure investment.

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