Oxfordshire Local Plan Watch - Spring 2023
Following abandonment of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, the five local planning authorities are bringing forward Local Plan reviews with a raft of consultations scheduled for 2023.
Since the decision to abandon the joint Oxfordshire Plan 2050, the authorities have continued to prepare evidence and draft Local Plans to identify strategies and locations for growth. Housing delivery, including Oxford’s unmet need, remains a central issue for each authority with the particular challenge of demonstrating a deliverable supply of housing sites.
Following the publication of the Oxford Local Plan 2040 Preferred Options in October 2022 and the subsequent Housing Need Consultation in Spring 2023, the City Council is moving forward to Regulation 19 Consultation in late 2023.
West Oxfordshire District is intending to consult on draft plan objectives and strategy options, together with a Call for Sites this summer, with preferred policy options to be consulted on at the end of the year.
South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse are preparing a Joint Local Plan, and consultation on preferred options is due to be undertaken in August/September. The Liberal Democrats took control of South Oxfordshire in the local election, and it remains to be seen if this will have any implications for the emerging policies and the programme for the Local Plan review.
Cherwell District deferred publication of its draft Local Plan in January and has since changed from a Conservative administration to no overall control. The programme for the Local Plan review is to be announced.
Given the potential for greater weight to be applied to Local Plans under the proposed planning reforms, the emerging draft policies being prepared across the county and the continuing need to identify land for housing, there will be opportunities to promote sites in the short term.
Five Year Housing Supply
The ability to meet housing requirements, including unmet need for housing in Oxford, presents a key challenge for each of the authorities to be addressed through Local Plan reviews.
The most recently published housing supply figures for each of the authorities are:
- Cherwell District: 5.4 years in the district excluding the partial review area and 0.2 years in the Partial Review area for Oxford’s unmet housing needs (Housing Land Statement, February 2023)
- City of Oxford: 5.47 years (Annual Monitoring Report, December 2022)
- South Oxfordshire District: 5.58 years (Housing Land supply Statement, July 2022)
- Vale of White Horse District: 6.29 years (Annual Monitoring Report, February 2023)
- West Oxfordshire District: 4.1 years (Housing Land Supply Position Statement, November 2022)
These figures demonstrate the relative limitations on housing supply across the county, with West Oxfordshire already failing to show a 5-year supply of deliverable sites.
On further assessment it may be demonstrated that other authorities do not have a 5-year supply. In South Oxfordshire, for example, an appeal decision at Chalgrove (APP/Q3115/W/22/3309622) in May 2023 established the housing supply to be 4.1 years.
There are likely to be opportunities to demonstrate an under supply of deliverable housing sites. However, the ability to apply the tilted balance will be a matter of judgement. Potentially decision makers may set a higher bar in weighing up the potential for conflict with development plan policies over housing land supply.