Jenrick suggests county council could take control of South Oxfordshire local plan

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has told South Oxfordshire District Council it has until the end of the month to explain why it has failed to adopt a local plan, while threatening to pass responsibility for the document's preparation to Oxfordshire County Council.

South Oxfordshire: Jenrick issues local plan deadline. Image: South Oxfordshire District Council
South Oxfordshire: Jenrick issues local plan deadline. Image: South Oxfordshire District Council

The future of the South Oxfordshire plan has been hanging in the balance since October when district councillors prepared to vote on whether to abandon the plan, despite the document having been submitted for examination, prompting Jenrick to issue a holding direction barring the council from making any decisions on the plan while he considered whether to call it in for his own approval.

Jenrick has now written to South Oxfordshire leader Sue Cooper to advise that the holding direction remains in force and that options under consideration include asking Oxfordshire County Council to prepare the local plan.

The housing secretary has given South Oxfordshire until 31 January to outline any "exceptional circumstances as to why you do not have a plan in place that I should take into account when I make a decision on next steps".

He added: "I would like to reiterate that this government is committed to ensuring every area has an up to date and suitably ambitious local plan in place. As such I would welcome your thoughts on any alternative options beyond those outlined above that would allow the plan to proceed without the need for formal government intervention."

The South Oxfordshire Local Plan was submitted for examination in March last year after a preparation process characterised by delay and political turmoil. However, hopes of adopting the document proved short lived after local elections in May last year heralded a new administration at the council that immediately promised to review the plan.

At the time, Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth warned that the district’s new administration that a decision to withdraw the South Oxfordshire local plan from examination would cast doubt on a £215 million housing growth deal agreed between central government and the six Oxfordshire councils.

A spokeswoman for South Oxfordshire District Council said: "The council is currently considering its options and will be providing a response in due course by the end of the month as requested."

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