Oxfordshire Local Plan Watch - Autumn 2023
With pressure to ensure update-to-date local plans are in place, we are seeing significant activity across Oxfordshire with all five local authorities having recently published or due to shortly publish draft Local Plans for consultation.
The prevailing themes of the local plan reviews are planning for the delivery of housing, employment, and infrastructure, including policies for sustainable growth and net zero carbon.
Oxford City Council is the most advanced with its local plan review, with the imminent publication of a Pre-Submission Draft Local Plan for in November 2023 for public consultation, following Cabinet approval in October. Following this final consultation, the draft Local Plan will be submitted for examination in the New Year.
The City has calculated its housing need in conjunction with Cherwell District Council – the only authority prepared to directly cooperate with the City since the collapse of the Joint Spatial Plan in 2022. The housing need for Oxford is for 1,322 new dwellings per annum from 2020 up until 2040. However, the capacity of the City can only accommodate 481 dwellings per annum.
The Draft Plan wishes to maximise the density of its sites and promote housing on all employment sites, but at this stage, is not explicitly looking to increased height to meet the need. This will likely form the key battleground in Oxford over the next decade.
Cherwell have already accepted this principle and has increased its housing requirement from 1,009 per annum to 1,293 per annum, assuming a proportionate share of the unmet need across Oxfordshire. The position of other authorities is less clear.
Cherwell recently published its Regulation 18 Consultation Draft Local Plan sets out a policy for 25,860 homes in the plan period. A Call for Sites exercise has been undertaken to identify potential development sites that could contribute to meeting this requirement.
Consultation on West Oxfordshire Local Plan 2041: ‘Ideas and Objectives’ (Regulation 18) was undertaken between August and October 2023, alongside a Call for Sites consultation. The authority is intending to move forward with Preferred Options in Winter 2023/24. The initial consultation addressed a series of potential growth scenarios, and it remains to be seen whether housing and employment will continue to be focussed on existing identified centres or whether a further new settlement or more dispersed growth will be planned for throughout the county.
South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse are currently working up policies to be set out in a Joint Local Plan 2041. The authorities published an updated Local Development Scheme in September 2023, which indicates that Preferred Options Consultation (Regulation 18) is due to be held in January/February 2024.
Five Year Land Supply
Meet housing requirements, including unmet need for housing in Oxford, presents a key challenge for each of the Oxfordshire authorities, to be addressed through Local Plan reviews. The most recently published housing supply figures for each authority identify the following positions in relation to five-year housing land supply:
- Oxford City: 5.47 years – for the period from 2022 to 2027 (Annual Monitoring Report, December 2022)
- Cherwell District: 5.4 years in the district excluding the partial review area for the period from April 2022 to March 2027, and2 years for the Local Plan Partial review area for Oxford’s unmet housing needs. (Housing Land Supply Statement, February 2023)
- South Oxfordshire District: 4.2 years for the period from April 2023 and March 2028 (Housing Supply Statement, September 2023)
- Vale of White Horse District: 6.29 years for the period from April 2022 to March 2027 (Housing Land Supply Statement, November 2022)
- West Oxfordshire District: 4.1 years for the period from 2022 to 2027 (Housing Land Supply Position Statement, November 2022)
These figures demonstrate the relative limitations on housing supply across the county, with South Oxfordshire and West Oxfordshire districts already failing to demonstrate a 5-year supply of deliverable sites, and Cherwell evidencing a shortfall in relation to its Local Plan Partial Review related to Oxford’s unmet housing need.
Oxford City Council, along with Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire districts are yet to publish an updated housing land supply position this year and therefore the full picture of housing land supply across Oxfordshire remains to be seen. This will be tested through the current local plan reviews for each of the districts.