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Housing targets in South Oxfordshire plan backed

Words: Laura Edgar
New housing / Shutterstock_509223637

Housing targets and green belt allocations for development in South Oxfordshire District Council’s local plan have been backed by an inspector. 

These preliminary conclusions are set out in a letter to the council sent by inspector Jonathan Bore that addresses the key matters that arose during the examination of the emerging plan.

The letter follows the removal of a holding direction on the plan in March this year, issued by housing secretary Robert Jenrick.

At a meeting in October 2019, the council’s cabinet recommended that councillors should vote to withdraw the emerging local plan to 2034 and begin work on a new “ambitious” plan. The plan was initially submitted for examination by the then Conservative administration in March 2019, but is now held by a coalition of Liberal Democrats and Green Party councillors. The holding direction was issued to prevent the withdrawal of the plan.

In removing the holding direction, Jenrick explained that he considered there to be a “clear case” for him to intervene in the production of the local plan and has directed the council to progress the plan and adopt it by December this year.

Bore’s preliminary findings include analysis of the local plan’s housing targets. 

A revision of the plan period, from 2034 to 2035, means that 23,550 homes will be delivered over this new plan period at a rate of 775 homes a year rather than 22,775. This includes provision for Oxford City Council's unmet need. This is higher than the number that would arise from the standard method, a number of reasons for which Bore considers to be strong, including there being a housing deal in place; the authority has agreed to take on unmet need from neighbouring authorities; and strategic infrastructure improvements are likely to drive an increase in the homes needed locally.

He concludes that the housing target “is justified” because a lower housing requirement “would not support the national objective to boost the supply of housing”, it would fail to address housing affordability issues and it would not satisfactorily address Oxford City’s unmet housing need.

Bore believes that there is “clear justification” for seeking to meet Oxford’s unmet housing needs close to its built-up area, which would mean commuting distances would be short, as well as this meaning there would be the potential to strengthen retail, social and transport facilities within adjacent parts of Oxford. 

Doing this means the plan alters green belt boundaries. For Bore, “seeking to meet this need beyond the green belt would not address the serious affordability problems of the city, would not meet need where it arises and would result in longer journey patterns including journeys by private car”. 

“The allocation of the three strategic sites next to Oxford, with their ability to deliver 50 per cent affordable housing, near substantial employment centres, is an essential response to meeting the significant level of unmet need in the city,” explains Bore.

He also considers the spatial strategy to support and respond to planned and funded infrastructure improvements. “My preliminary conclusion is that the spatial strategy is logical, justified on the evidence, integrated and sound.”

A spokesperson for South Oxfordshire District Council said: “We are reviewing the inspector’s preliminary findings. In this letter and throughout the examination process, the inspector has identified main modifications that must be made for the plan to be considered ‘sound’.” 

The inspector has not invited comments on his preliminary findings, but the public will be able to comment on the main modifications that will be finalised.

The letter and more on the local plan can be found here on the South Oxfordshire District Council website.

Read more: 

SoS removes holding direction on South Oxfordshire plan but still intervenes

South Oxfordshire to discuss local plan

SoS issues holding direction on South Oxfordshire plan

SoS considers passing control of South Oxfordshire plan to county council

Oxfordshire county ‘would take on’ South Oxfordshire’s plan


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