We are experiencing a critical period for planning in Oxfordshire, for the current round of Local Plans and for longer-term promotions through the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 and/or future Local Plan Reviews.
There is considerable pressure on the Oxfordshire authorities to abandon the levels of housing and jobs growth which were identified through the 2014 Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) and which, more recently, was agreed through the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal (HGD). This pressure follows the publication of the Government’s low standard method housing need figures and the general opposition to the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Arc, initially identified by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and subsequently endorsed by Government.
This pressure has, in part, led to the significant political changes secured through the 2019 local elections. For South Oxfordshire, this has resulted in turmoil for the draft Local Plan submitted under the previous (Conservative) administration. Similarly, Vale of White Horse District Council has also attempted to undo its adopted Local Plan and there will almost certainly be a delay to the Oxfordshire Plan 2050.
In a post-SHMA context, the housing and economic case underpinning emerging Local Plans and supporting future plan-making through the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 is to be reassessed.
Critically, through Oxford City’s Local Plan Examination, the Council responded last week to some initial and challenging questions posed by the Inspector. This highlights that the 2014 SHMA is increasingly out of date and that high levels of jobs and housing – significantly above standard method – must be justified based upon up-to-date evidence. The Council’s response, which is based on such up-to-date evidence, identifies that there is no compelling evidence to depart from the 1,400 dwellings per annum figure in the SHMA. It also reaffirms the continued commitment to the HGD including the infrastructure investment which will support growth.
To add weight to the City Council’s case, the Oxfordshire Local Industrial Strategy (OxLIS) was published on Friday 19th July alongside three other Local Industrial Strategies across the Oxford Cambridge Growth Arc.
The OxLIS sets out an ambitious economic strategy up to 2040 which closely aligns with the Government’s national strategy. At its heart, the OxLIS targets becoming a top three ‘global innovation ecosystem’ by 2040, focusing on innovation and higher productivity.
In order to achieve the economic ambitions of the area set out in the OxLIS, it states that thriving new housing communities are needed. The OxLIS sets out more about the quality of these new places and communities whilst also pointing towards a large quantum of new jobs (and therefore homes) needing to be delivered. Importantly, it remains committed to the HGD which requires the delivery of 100,000 homes by 2031 and the production of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 by March 2021.
The OxLIS is expected to be vitally important to underpinning the ambitious levels of growth agreed through the HGD which covers both current and emerging Local Plans and, longer-term, the Oxfordshire Plan 2050. It provides a robust economic evidence base, agreed by key stakeholders and endorsed by Government. As part of the wider suite of strategies which should inform plan-making in Oxfordshire, the OxLIS should reinforce the case for ambitious, even ‘transformational’ growth within Oxfordshire. The opportunity is difficult to overstate though it will be hard fought to secure.
Barton Willmore is due to participate in the Examinations of the Oxford City and South Oxfordshire Local Plans, supporting the level of growth proposed through the HGD. We are also representing a consortium of landowners, housebuilders and land promoters through the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 process. Please get in touch if you want more information relating to the OxLIS or general planning matters relating to Oxfordshire.
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Oxfordshire Local Industrial Strategy, Oxfordshire Plan 2050, Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, UK Housing