Council prepares to scrap emerging local plan, despite threat to £433 million of government funds

An Oxfordshire council's cabinet has recommended the withdrawal of its local plan from examination, despite a threat from the government that the move risks it losing millions of pounds of central government infrastructure funding.

South Oxfordshire District Council: local plan looks set to be scrapped
South Oxfordshire District Council: local plan looks set to be scrapped

South Oxfordshire District Council’s cabinet last week voted in favour of scrapping the emerging plan, which was submitted for examination in March by the local authority's previous Conservative administration.

Local elections in May saw control of the authority pass to a coalition of Lib Dems, Greens and independent councillors, many of whom were elected after campaigning against the local plan. 

The reasons given for scrapping the plan at last week's meeting include the plan’s target of 775 homes a year – above the 627 that would be required by central government’s standard method for calculating housing need.

In addition, the cabinet said that the local plan does "not give sufficient weight to responding to the climate emergency".

Other concerns cited include a lack of justification for the scale of green belt releases and "flawed site selection". 

A proposal to start the preparation of a new plan will be voted on by a meeting of full council later this week.

Leigh Rawlins, cabinet member for planning at South Oxfordshire District Council, said the vote "reflects the needs of South Oxfordshire residents and addresses their serious concerns" about the plan.

He said: "Subject to the support of councillors…I’m looking forward to getting to work on an ambitious, sustainable new local plan that properly reflects the needs of our residents."

In March, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) was successful in bidding for £218 million of funding from the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) for infrastructure needed to enable new housing across the South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse districts.

A letter from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Goverment, sent last month, according to an officer’s report that went before last week’s cabinet meeting to South Oxfordshire District Council, said that if the council chooses to withdraw the plan "it would immediately put at risk the significant investment that the government has made available to South Oxfordshire and the wider county, including jeopardising the £218m recently allocated through the HIF".

In June, council officers warned that withdrawing the plan could also threaten a separate £215m housing deal agreed for six Oxfordshire councils with central government.

However, the officers report said that "it is not clear whether government would continue the deal should the plan be withdrawn". 


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