THERE is concern a major deal with Government could be scrapped if a council decides it does not want to take part.
All Oxfordshire councils signed up to the £215m Housing and Growth Deal and it was officially agreed in March 2018.
It provides £150m for infrastructure improvements, including to roads and railways, and £60m for affordable housing.
But there is concern within other authorities after the new coalition led by Liberal Democrats and Greens at South Oxfordshire District Council said they planned to review its Local Plan.
Sources within the councils have said there are worries the Government could pull out of the deal if it is delayed. It ripped up a similar plan in Manchester in March.
But Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We have got to wait and see what the councils say. It is entirely up to them but having £60m for affordable homes is a major issue to the councils. Losing that would be very upsetting for everyone.
“Everyone needs to be very careful about what they do and the consequences.”
In South Oxfordshire, Lib Dems and Greens are opposed to the plan – although they appear to be against different parts.When the Growth Deal was signed, the Government told the councils that they had to submit their Local Plans to an independent inspector by the start of April. They are outlines of where authorities plan to develop until the mid-2030s.
It is understood the Greens would rather continue the project to build homes at Chalgrove Airfield and stop development on the Green Belt. But senior Lib Dem David Turner is wholly opposed to building on the airfield. He represents Chalgrove on the council.
Leigh Rawlins, SODC’s newly appointed cabinet member for planning, said the council would undertake a review over the Local Plan as part of ‘mature consideration’ following the election.
He said: “Clearly there has been a huge amount of concern about the Local Plan, the process and how it came together across the district.”
The uncertainty has left some residents furious, who are worried that Neighbourhood Plans they helped put together could be delayed or even scrapped as part of the Local Plan.
Justine Wood, who worked on East Hagbourne’s Neighbourhood Plan, said a delay to the Local Plan could mean speculative development.
She said: “There were 1,200 homes planned for East Hagbourne, which would have quadrupled the size of the village (through speculative development). It would have been catastrophic.
“But if they scrap the Local Plan they will get more than the 28,500 they are objecting to and they will have nothing they can do about it.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government cancelled a £68m deal for affordable housing with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).
GMCA said it would build 227,200 homes until 2034/5 – but then later committed to just 201,000 homes.
The council voted to accept the plan, which would involve building homes on Oxford’s Green Belt and at Chalgrove Airfield, last December.
But at the time, just four councillors were not Conservative members.
On May 2, their party lost control of the council. Later this week, the Liberal Democrats and Greens will take control.
Benson’s Lib Dem councillor Sue Cooper, who is likely to be named council leader later this week, said: “After these dramatic local election results, it’s only right that new councillors from all parties get the chance to look in detail at what is proposed in the Local Plan, so they can make a reasoned decision as to whether changes are necessary and what the consequences might be.”
If the Local Plan is delayed, it will impact on the county’s involvement in the Government’s Housing and Growth Deal.
Benson’s other district councillor, the Green Party’s Andrea Powell, said: “It was clear during the election campaign that over-development in our district is a major issue, but we must also take care to protect our area from the speculative development that happened under the previous council. This is the responsible way to proceed.”
CAMPAIGNERS have criticised the major parties continued support of building a new garden village in South Godstone.
The Tandridge Lane Action Group (TLAG) says the local election results a fortnight ago proved the electorate was strongly against the Local Plan.
The Oxted and Limpsfield Residents’ Group and Independents Alliance (OLRG) gained three seats, bringing their total to 13 while the Conservatives lost six seats and overall control of the council for the first time in almost two decades.
On results night, Conservative leader Martin Fisher, who the Oxted North and Tandridge Ward seat to OLRG candidate David Stamp by 578 votes to 1,584, said: “The Local Plan is a key issue. I believe we need to build houses for the next generation. But we need clear clarity from Government about how we build that in particularly with the green belt.”
The Liberal Democrats, who gained two seats bringing their total to 11, published an open letter this week calling for Tandridge District Council to build the 4,000 dwelling South Godstone garden village “at a faster rate.”
The letter, signed by Lib Dem leader Cllr Chris Botten, set out the grounds on which the party was willing to support other groups.
David Hughes, TLAG’s chairman, said: “This is a fundamental democratic issue. The people of Tandridge overwhelmingly rejected the Local Plan and garden village last week, as they did at last year’s Reg 19 consultation stage (feedback the council has ignored), but now the LibDems are preparing to shore up the Conservatives in pushing through a scheme that was the main reason they have been unceremoniously bundled out of office.
“In our opinion, both parties should instead respect the clearly expressed will of the public and abandon this ridiculous proposal that nobody wants”.
Cllr Botten highlighted the success the Liberal Democrats had in the north of district, saying it provided them a strong mandate to deliver the garden village.
He added: “We believe that overriding issue is the need for affordable housing and that there needs to be a plan to deliver a a reasonable number in Tandridge.”
The Planning Inspectorate is working with the Government Digital Service (GDS) on the development of a new portal for all its casework. This will initially be an interim digital public service using a third-party tool whilst also developing a strategic portal solution that will be internally owned and managed by the Planning Inspectorate.
GDS ruled out the long-term use of a portal provided on a ‘software as a service’-basis and required it to be developed specifically for and then maintained by the Planning Inspectorate. This resulted in substantial additional procurement activity becoming
necessary during late 2018/early 2019. To reduce the delaying impact of the additional procurement currently in train, GDS agreed to this interim solution but only for our ‘volume’ s78 planning appeals; not those proceeding by way of an Inquiry. Now the costs are becoming clearer, the funding of a portal solution owned and managed by the Inspectorate is currently unresolved; it is likely that additional funding will be required from MHCLG.
In parallel to the further procurement activity, we have undertaken further work with users over the past 6 months. This has given us a substantially better understanding of the similarities and differences between the different appeals processes in technology implementation terms and user needs. We therefore now believe that Inquiry appeals could be easily integrated as part of the interim solution. However, this is dependent on achieving agreement from GDS to expanding the interim solution to include Inquiry appeals. We are currently in discussions with GDS about this The Inquiries Review, published on 12 February (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-review-of-planning-appeal Inquiries-report ), flagged the urgent need for an improved digital public service for this casework (see recommendation 1). We are aware of the substantial public and Secretary of State interest in the timely implementation of the recommendations made in the Review Report. For this reason, and as it unlocks a vast number of benefits for us, we are very keen to deliver on this recommendation as quickly as possible
In other words an off the shelf SoS solution can work, GDS is blocking it and we dont have the money for their built from scratch approach anyway. Remember these are the guys that brought us digitisation of the NHS.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has urged the South Oxfordshire]– and Vale of White Horse – to scrap controversial housing plans.
Oxfordshire branch has leapt on the Lib Dems’ dramatic victories at last week’s local elections and called on them to ‘take the plans off the table for a rethink’.
Both councils were previously Tory-led before a dramatic turnaround at the election.
And now CPRE has appealed to new councillors to reassess the controversial Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal and proposed growth across the county.
All of Oxfordshire’s councils agreed to pass the £215m Growth Deal in early 2018.
Part of the deal was that the district councils had to submit finished Local Plans for housing based on Government-backed housing targets.
The plans could involve development on the Green Beltaround Oxford, most notably in South Oxfordshire.
Six of that council’s seven strategic sites for thousands of new homes would be built on the Green Belt if it is approved by a planning inspector.
But new councillors could withdraw the plan – despite the Government explicitly saying under the terms of the Growth Deal that it had to be submitted for assessment this year.
The county’s councils have also agreed to look at future development in Oxfordshire ahead of 2050 – with the possibility of hundreds of thousands of extra houses being built.
Helen Marshall, CPRE Oxfordshire’s director, said: “It’s time to set a more appropriate level of development, in line with natural growth and migration, not arbitrary targets.
“Then we can concentrate on looking after our wonderful landscape and supporting local communities, which are actually critical to economic success.”
The local plan figures are only around 100 /annum units less than the standard method with 2014 based hh formation, the difference being the employment plus element, so there is absolutely no advantage on withdrawing the plan and having to resubmit under the New NPPF, what is worse they will require memorandums of understanding.
“I am thrilled, a little bit stunned,” said Councillor John Lodge, leader of Residents for Uttlesford, which took overall control at the local elections, Uttlesford District Council, said: “The scale has surprised us. We expected to take control but in co-operation with other parties. We took every seat we fully campaigned for.
“The result was not a Brexit backlash. They [the Conservatives] have bungled our local plan, wasted taxpayer money, and refused to listen to residents. This is resident power at work.”
He pledged to share responsibly with opposition parties “choosing talent over party” but there is limited opposition to chose from. The Liberal Democrats have seven, the Conservatives four (losing 20 seats), and the independents just two.
But he does want to share. Cllr Lodge said: “We want to foster co-operation as opposed to public or private fighting. We shall include other parties in the administration, not everyone in the cabinet will be from R4U. We will choose the best talent, not limited to which party.”
Priorities for the new regime will be Stansted Airport – to ensure that section 106 agreements are adhered to in respect of community funding, and the local plan.
R4U will seek to have new developments overseen by a development corporation saying every new town since the war has been overseen thus.
“Uttlesford has built more homes (in proportion to its population of 80,000) than any other planning authority except Tower Hamlets. We don’t want development to be controlled by the developers,” he said.
“We will decide when the infrastructure is built. We want the roads, shopping centres and schools there before the houses.”
R4U will also revisit where the new towns will go and how many new homes are needed. After Brexit he says an economic downturn may mean fewer people moving here.
“We have a massive job ahead. The Conservative administration submitted a flawed local plan for government inspection. They’ve left a mess with the proposed Stansted Airport expansion, and lost millions in their property arm. I met the UDC chief executive over the bank holiday weekend and we’ve already started work.”
The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that in the 2007 decision it was identified that there was no alternative development site, a finding which attracted considerable weight in favour of that scheme (IR4.2). However, since 2007 the London Gateway, a brownfield site not located in the Green Belt, has been developed. For the reasons given in IR15.8.18 to 15.8.24, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector’s conclusions that the London Gateway site has the potential to provide an alternative
development option for the provision of a SRFI to serve the same part of London and the South East as the appeals proposal
London Gateway, a former oil refinery, has rapidly become the major employment/distribution centre to the East of London, together with the adjoining Thames Enterprise Park. Another former refinery.
This has been done without any strategy this far, whether London, Thames Gateway/Esturay or South Essex. Hence it is not connected to South of the River, and there is no means of importing rail freight at the Thames Estuary and forging a rail bound route that avoids London Roads.
Here is the great missed strategic planning opportunity. The Governments recent Thames Estuary 2050 report response is dismissive of a multi modal crossing at Tilbury referring to early options on the East London Riving Crossing, when neither housing growth (potentially several new towns in size) nor an SFRI was a twinkle in anyone’s eye.
A multi modal crossing plus a link to Crossrail could mean that freight could cross under London at night by rail and even link to Heathrow, where there is the potential for a unique Air/Rial/Road Railfreight interchange to the West of Heathrow. A link to HS2 at Tilbury offers the potential to nightime links through to the North West using the East Coast mainline and also railfreight depots in the East Midlands using the ECML, ECML and HS2 at night to direct freight through to London Gateway and the continent by rail. In the light of the increased prominence of freight in planning where is the atregic plan for railfreight and how it links to major transport and employment prposals in emerging startegic plans?
In the past changes in control has led to big delays in local plans and swings between allocating greenfield sites or not – one thinks of Coventry, Doncaster and Northumberland.
There are very few cases of this this time. Certainly in a few cases things will get more interesting – like Wirral being NOC. But even in Brighton where the Greens regain control they have given up opposition to urban expansion (as long as it is 100% affordable). The bland lib-dems manifesto for Chelmsford mentions nothing about North Essex Garden Communities.
UKIP only fielded three candidates in Thanet which they won in 2015 but it will have no impact on the local plan. Wirral goes to NOC and it was the bone headed stubbornness of the labour leader there which led it to be bottom of the local plan failure tables.
I spotted no changes of control in the whole CaMKox corridor.
Conclusion – urban expansion seems to have had no impact at the ballot box. The political rising of housing as an issue has seen to that, and local politicians are far less jittery on this than they were 5 years ago.
A petition set up by the ‘Save Our Green Belt’ campaign two weeks ago has now reached over 2,000 signatures, and the group expect to deliver it to Coventry Council House this week.
Campaigner Merle Gering said: “If there is hyper population growth in Coventry – as the council claim – they are all ghosts or vampires.
“The latest government data shows they don’t vote, don’t go to A&E, don’t have babies or send children to school, don’t have cars and don’t receive state pension – do they even exist?”
He added: “We are not the boom town that the council likes to claim, sadly.”
The campaigners claim that Coventry’s population growth has been over-estimated due to the number of university students in the city.
Merle said: “New research, published by Office of National Statistics (ONS) on January 30th this year, shows undeniably that the annual population estimates, and projections, are at least 2,000 too large every single year – and are probably 3,000 too large each year.
“The error arises because they grossly under-count the number of foreign students who leave the country after graduating.
“Over 20 years, it balloons the predicted growth for Coventry by 40-60,000.”
The council has said that although it is possible for the local plan to be re-evaluated should predictions change, research still suggests a strong population growth is expected in the city.
There are possible reasons why we think these findings [on students] may not affect total net migration figures, which are detailed in this section.
Emigrating students who gave a different previous reason for immigration may potentially be included in other categories, for example “work” or “accompany or join”. Therefore, while they aren’t separately identified as previous student immigrants, they will be included in the total figures.
There may potentially be some “offsetting” with other groups of migrants who will contribute to the total net migration figures in other ways. For example, there could be a group of emigrants who have a tendency to understate their duration from the UK – perhaps British emigrants who return home earlier than intended.
Total net migration figures include an adjustment for people who change their migration intentions. This is an adjustment to the overall figures for long-term international migration (for estimating the population) and isn’t applied to more detailed breakdowns such as reason for migration by nationality. It isn’t currently possible to separate out this adjustment for students as a particular group.
All these possible reasons require further investigation before any conclusions can be reached about the benefit of further adjustments to total net migration figures.