South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) has bowed to the inevitable by agreeing, under government pressure, to its controversial Local Plan which had been drafted before the district council elections last year.
After a five-month delay, the council has reluctantly accepted the Plan which councillors say will cause “environmental destruction” with an excess of new homes being built in the district.
The Secretary for Housing Robert Jenrick intervened last month. He ordered a block on council and public debate on the issue, saying that the council must take the Plan forward. He cited planning law as the basis for his decision.
But councillors were opposed to Mr Jenrick’s “interference in the democratic debate”. Our district councillor, Sam Casey-Rerhaye, said “the government was determined that the Plan should be adopted by December this year. If not, then Mr Jenrick has threatened ”further action”.
She added: “What it means is that the council has no choice in the matter. The plan has to go to inspection exactly as it was in draft form. It will include 3,500 homes proposed at Culham although not all would be built within the plan period. Also included are five other Green belt sites, and Chalgrove.”
However, the MP for Wantage and Didcot, David Johnston, defended the Plan. Writing in his fortnightly column in the Herald newspaper, Mr Johnston said there was a need for more affordable houses of high quality, built sustainably to meet efforts on climate change and located in the right places.
He wrote: “I recognise people’s concerns of over-development but the problem, in the absence of a Local Plan, is speculative development. People can build wherever they like.”