It looks as if the end of the road is in sight for South Oxfordshire District Council’s (SODC) re-drawn Local Plan which has been at the centre of controversy with the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
At the recent public hearing into the Plan, the Inspector ruled that the original plan drawn up by the previous Conservative-led administration should proceed. This will allow 28,500 new homes to be built in South Oxfordshire over the next fifteen years including 3,500 in the Culham district and a further 3,000 homes and other facilities at the old Chalgrove airfield site.
The Government has set itself a target of 300,000 homes a year to meet demand and it recently announced planning guidelines which aim to speed-up planning decisions made by local authorities. The new regime running SODC is a coalition of Liberal Democrats and the Green Party. It says the old Plan proposed by the former Tory-run council had an excess of new homes and would lead to the “environmental destruction” of the district.
But now, following the inspector’s decision, it looks as if SODC’s original Plan will be in place by the end of the year, a decision which the council says it will continue to fight. The Green councillor for the Wittenhams, Sam Casey-Rerhaye, says she’s working with other councillors in the ruling group to plan their next move.
She said: “The Plan is being imposed on the council by the anti-democratic direction of Mr Jenrick. We are disappointed with the inspector’s ruling; we had hoped he would judge the Plan to be too reliant on large greenbelt sites with far too many houses.”
“Mr Jenrick has directed that we see the Plan through to adoption by December. But what this means for councillors who were elected on the basis that the Plan should be withdrawn and a new one created, is yet to be clear.”
Mrs Casey-Rerhaye said house and road developments planned for the area represented an urbanisation of the district leading to extreme traffic congestion and offered no hope for grappling with climate change mitigation.
“Meanwhile huge numbers of people still can’t afford to buy or rent a home for themselves. I’d like the government to tell us what level of house building they think will make homes affordable and when they think we will get there. The number of homes built in South Oxfordshire in the last five years has had no effect on house prices – in fact prices have continued to increase.”