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Oxfordshire councils fail to agree on Oxfordshire Plan 2050


Aug 11, 2022

THE scrapping of a key housing document worth a reported £2.5 million has been blasted by campaign groups.

Councils across Oxfordshire announced last week that they had been unable to agree on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, which was to set out where and how many houses will be built in the county.

The Plan was to be used by leading councils, to detail how housing and infrastructure will be delivered in the next 30 years.

However, in a joint statement from the leaders of the county’s district councils – Oxford City, Cherwell, South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse, and West Oxfordshire – it was revealed that the 2050 Plan work programme would end.

READ AGAIN: Councils fail to agree on key housing plan

Housing needs will now be addressed through individual Local Plans for each of the city and districts.

In addition to housing, the 2050 Plan also set out how to mitigate flood risk and tackle climate change.

Ian Green, chair of Oxford Civic Society, said: “We have been told the Plan has been abandoned because the four districts and the city cannot agree on housing and growth targets. That is a problem that leads to other serious problems.

“This is not just about housing numbers and the Green Belt. The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 was supposed to address cross-boundary planning matters across the county.

“The draft Plan also covered issues such as tackling climate change, improving environmental quality, and creating stronger and healthy communities.

“A huge amount of good work has been done on these issues, and many of the draft policies were widely supported. The best parts of these will not easily be taken forward by five different Local Plans that may conflict or compete.

“We need answers from our councillors on how the future of Oxfordshire as a whole is to be planned.

“Last year, the councils stated that they had found ‘common ground’ on many issues. This must not disappear.”

Oxford Mail: Oxford North is one of the major developments in the city. Picture via Oxford City CouncilOxford North is one of the major developments in the city. Picture via Oxford City Council

Need Not Greed Oxon (NNGO) – a coalition of 36 groups across Oxfordshire – hit out at a perceived lack of progress on the Plan in June.

Suzanne McIvor, of NNGO, said: “We have been asking about the progress of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 for many months.

“A revised timetable had just been agreed with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, so we were surprised at the unexpected withdrawal of the Plan late last week.

“We were, however, less surprised that the councils had failed to agree on the number of houses to be built.

“A great deal of public money, reportedly £2.5m, has been spent on development of the Oxfordshire Plan and with hindsight this would have been much better spent elsewhere.”

Oxford Mail: Land between Oxford Parkway and Cutteslowe Park. Picture: Ed NixLand between Oxford Parkway and Cutteslowe Park. Picture: Ed Nix

Helen Marshall, director of CPRE Oxfordshire, said cancellation of the Plan is a ‘very disappointing outcome’.

She added: “As well as the cost to councils and taxpayers, there are many local businesses and organisations, including CPRE, that have invested time and money in inputting ideas and evidence to the 2050 Plan.

“It is only a couple of weeks since we were promised a further consultation, particularly addressing housing numbers.

“It would clearly be better to plan for the whole of Oxfordshire than for each of the five district councils to make individual plans.

“As we understand it, the cancellation of the 2050 Plan arises from the city council pushing for yet more development.

“Since the city council itself has said it has no land to accommodate any more housing, this would inevitably put further pressure on its neighbouring councils to accept additional housing to satisfy Oxford city’s housing need.

“In turn, this could force further development on the precious Oxford Green Belt which surrounds the city.”

Oxford Mail: The Bayswater development site, where plans for 1,500 homes are being consulted on. Picture: Miranda NorrisThe Bayswater development site, where plans for 1,500 homes are being consulted on. Picture: Miranda Norris

David Young of POETS (Planning Oxfordshire’s Environment and Transport Sustainably) said: “We are of course disappointed by the inability to agree a common future, for instance in terms of the rollout of nature conservation target areas, planning for large-scale renewable energy, management of water resources, a coherent approach to land value capture and other county-scale issues.

“However, our bottom line would be that having a bad strategic plan is probably worse than, for the time being at least, having none.”

A statement on behalf of the five Oxfordshire councils with local planning powers confirmed that the local authorities will continue to work together on their individual Plans.

The statement reads: “While councils were unable to reach agreement on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, there was plenty of positive work that emerged from the plan-making process which will still be of use, such as the Oxfordshire Vision, that focuses on environmental sustainability.

“Each council is now working to bring forward a Local Plan that reflects this vision.

“The Local Plan process involves continued cooperation among the councils, and so a number of issues will now be taken forward in the same way as they are elsewhere in the country.

“Collaborative working will continue through the Future Oxfordshire Partnership and associated bodies such as the Local Nature Partnership.”

Read more from this author

This story was written by Liam Rice, he joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Liam covers politics, travel and transport. He occasionally covers Oxford United.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Liam.rice@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailLiamRice