Oxfordshire Local Plan Watch - Autumn 2022
The five districts of Oxfordshire had been working together on a joint Spatial Plan 2050; however, on August 3rd 2022 it was announced that the districts had been unable to reach an agreement on the approach to planning of future housing needs. The Strategic Plan has now been abandoned and housing need will need to be addressed through the Duty to Cooperate.
The Local Plans for each district will now separately provide frameworks for long-term planning within Oxfordshire. The crucial issue of housing needs will now be addressed through these local plans; although, councils will continue to cooperate with one another and key bodies.
Oxford City Council Local Plan 2016 – 2036 was adopted in March 2019, presently they are continuing to develop the Local Plan 2040, with consultation on their Regulation 18 plan open from October 3rd till 14th November 2022. A draft consultation version of the Plan is available now. Regulation 19 consultation is expected in August/September 2023.
West Oxfordshire Local Plan 2031 was adopted in 2018, plan preparation is continuing for Regulation 18 expected until August 2023.
Cherwell Local Plan 2011 - 2031 (part 1) was adopted in July 2015, containing strategic planning policies for development and the use of land. A partial review to meet Oxfords unmet housing need adopted in September 2020. Cherwell commenced a review on their Local Plan 2040, with draft plan consultation initially anticipated for summer 2022.This will now be considered in October 2022.
The present Vale of White Horse local plan is divided into two parts. Local plan 2031 part 1 was adopted in 2016 and sets out the spatial strategy and strategic policies, identifying the number of new homes and jobs to be provided. Local plan 2031 part 2 was adopted in 2019, establishing policies and location of houses. The Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire have come together to work on a new Joint Local Plan 2041, for which Regulation 18 consultation was expected in summer 2022 and Regulation 19 in summer 2023. Call for sites closes on 30th September, whilst preferred options are to be consulted on in early 2023. The current South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035 was adopted in 2020.
Five Year Housing Supply
The collapse of the collaborative Joint Spatial Plan leaves the County without a clear mechanism for planning for Oxford’s unmet need. With the 5-year housing land supply for each district likely to be under contention, this raises the question as to how this unmet need will work in plan-making and planning appeals. For now, many Districts are relying on the growth derived from the last decade of strategic planning, forcing reliance on existing development plan documents for an extended period. Creating potential consequences on their ability to deliver new homes.
The most recent figures for housing supply are:
- Cherwell District: 3.5 years (as of April 2022)
- City of Oxford: 7.78 years
- South Oxfordshire District: 5.58 years
- Vale of White Horse District: 5.04 years
- West Oxfordshire District: 5.3 years
There have been suggestions that West Oxfordshire District figures are inaccurate. Following a recent appeal against West Oxfordshire Council (APP/D3125/W/22/3293656), it was concluded that housing land supply was closer to the appellant’s submitted 3.68 years, rather than 5.02 years. Oxford City recently announced through their preferred options that they propose to continue with a capacity-based approach to planning for homes, which will set a minimum target. The target achieves approximately half of the actual need, leading the City Council to work with other Oxfordshire authorities to address its unmet housing needs.
Under the terms of the National Planning Policy Framework, the policies of the affected Districts would be regarded as outdated and a tilted balance in favour of approving sustainable development will apply. Opportunities may transpire for housing proposals outside formal allocations and for smaller windfalls, whilst the districts will be keen to accelerate their plan-making. This process will expose weaknesses in cooperation across the five Districts and will likely lengthen timescales for adoption of plans.