The Local Plan for South Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire County Councillors today (Tue, Feb 11) debated how to respond in the event of the receipt of an invitation by Central Government to prepare or revise the South Oxfordshire Local Plan.

Local Plans set out the strategic priorities for development of each individual district in England and cover housing, commercial, public and private development, including transport infrastructure, along with protection for the local environment.

A report presented to councillors today said: “South Oxfordshire submitted its Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate for examination in March 2019. The new administration, elected in May 2019, initiated a period in which it considered either withdrawing or significantly amending the local plan.

“In October 2019 the Secretary of State issued a “Holding Direction”- preventing it from either withdrawing its plan or from doing any further work on it.

“Since October discussions have continued to take place between the District Council and the Ministry for Communities Housing and Local Government to try and find a way to allow the examination of the local plan to continue. For now however the holding direction remains in place.

“The Secretary of State (Robert Jenrick) wrote to South Oxfordshire District Council on January 7, 2020 asking how the Council intended to take the Local Plan forward or to set out the exceptional circumstances preventing progress. The Secretary of State’s decision is awaited as to how he now intends to proceed, including whether to exercise his option to formally invite the County Council to prepare the Local Plan on behalf of South Oxfordshire.

“It is important to note that the power remains with the Secretary of State to invite the County Council as the upper tier authority to undertake the preparation, revision and adoption of the Local Plan in place of the lower-tier authority; but it remains a matter for the County Council to decide whether it wishes to accept such an invitation.”

County Councillors today fully debated and then were asked to vote on how the council should respond if such an invitation was received. The outcome of that vote was that any invitation should be accepted.

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “This is a very unusual position we find ourselves in. It is something that neither I nor Oxfordshire County Council have proactively sought.

“I thank county councillors for taking part in today’s debate and the vote that followed. The only way to have local input in to the progression of South Oxfordshire’s Local Plan was for us to take the difficult decision to accept an invitation if this is received from the Secretary of State.

“This way forward would give the very best opportunity for South Oxfordshire residents to feed into the process as it evolves, as well as seeing the many infrastructure benefits that it could provide. By not progressing the Local Plan we could lose £368m for much required infrastructure.”

“We have a strong and longstanding partnership with our partners at South Oxfordshire District Council on many issues and we want to maintain that for the benefit of people of South Oxfordshire.”

Oxfordshire County Council has not yet received an invitation from central Government.