Fresh delay to South Oxfordshire local plan

The progress of South Oxfordshire District Council's contentious local plan has been halted by a fresh delay, despite warnings that the ongoing crisis could jeopardise £218 million of central government funding.

South Oxfordshire council offices at Milton Park
South Oxfordshire council offices at Milton Park

In the latest setback to the rollout of the council’s emerging local plan, a series of meetings scheduled to take place this month have been pushed back to October.

Three key meetings, of the Scrutiny Committee, the Cabinet, and the full founcil, have been put back to 1, 3 and 10 October respectively, despite an admission from South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning policy manager, Holly Jones, expressed in a letter to local inspectors, that this would mean "further delay to our ability to confirm the future of the South Oxfordshire local plan".

The local plan has been a source of controversy since before local elections in May this year saw a change of administration in South Oxfordshire. It was a key battleground in the elections, which led to a coalition of Liberal Democrat and Green Party councillors – who ran a campaign in opposition to the previous iteration of the plan  – take over the council.

Since then local politicians have been locked in a series of disputes, including over whether to pull the plan altogether.

The delays come amid concerns that they could threaten £218m of funding support for a new community from the government's Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF), which is contingent on the progress of the local plan.

On August 26 newly appointed housing secretary Robert Jenrick wrote a letter to South Oxfordshire District Council leader Sue Cooper, stating that he welcomed "the importance that you place on the Housing Infrastructure Fund projects", adding "I am also reassured by your confirmation that the plan remains at examination and that you have actively engaged your planning inspectors".

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