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South Oxfordshire to discuss local plan

Words: Laura Edgar
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South Oxfordshire District Council is holding a special cabinet meeting to discuss leaving the area’s local plan at examination after the housing secretary issued a holding direction preventing its withdrawal.

Because of the holding direction, the council cannot take any steps towards adopting the local plan, which covers the period to 2034.

However, according to a report drafted by the head of planning, Emma Baker, discussions have taken place with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), and the council has received confirmation that Robert Jenrick might be minded to withdraw the holding direction before the cabinet meeting on 5 March. Councillors will therefore be able to consider this report on the local plan without breaching his direction.

Jenrick issued the holding direction after 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 in October 2019.

In January, the housing secretary wrote to South Oxfordshire District Council to say he was considering passing control of the area’s local plan to Oxfordshire County Council. A month later, Oxfordshire County Council voted in favour of accepting an invitation from Jenrick – should he extend one – to prepare or revise the South Oxfordshire Local Plan.

But since October the circumstances regarding the Oxford City Local Plan examination have progressed to the next stages, with hearing sessions held in December 2019.

Interim conclusions published by inspectors suggest that the calculations of the overall housing need and supporting documents were sound.

The report goes on to explain that there are two options open to the council – withdraw it, or leave it to proceed through examination.

It states that progressing the plan would show that the council recognises “that this will allow councillors’ concerns about the plan to be rigorously and independently tested by the local plan inspectors”, and it would also recognise that the council’s planning policy officers are best placed to take the plan through examination.

Sue Cooper, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Stripping us of our plan-making powers would take the ability to influence the local plan out of the hands of those who were elected to do just that. It would mean putting it in the hands of a council that has no democratic mandate to make local plans in South Oxfordshire, nor any experience of making this type of plan.”

“The new report sets out all of the risks and benefits of each of the options, and I am very sure my colleagues in the cabinet will discuss them thoroughly and as always come to a recommendation that has the best interests of South Oxfordshire residents at its heart.”

The report to be considered by the cabinet on 5 March can be found on the council's website.

Read more:

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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