Are developers setting Oxfordshire’s housing targets?


31st January 2022

As local authorities this week consider a report on the Oxfordshire 2050 Plan, concerns are growing that developers are getting an undue say in the process.

Now CPRE Oxfordshire is asking local authority Scrutiny Committees to step in and insist on clarity.

Helen Marshall, Director, CPRE Oxfordshire, said: “It is vital that the District Council Scrutiny Committees gain clarity of who will ultimately make decisions on housing targets for the county and seeks a defined and transparent role for local councillors in this process, now, at this critical stage of decision-making. 

“We are also asking that Scrutiny Committees seek clarification that the views of local people will take precedence over those with vested financial interests.”

Last year, Oxfordshire residents were asked their views about three ‘growth options’ in the emerging Oxfordshire 2050 Plan.  

  • ‘Standard (Adjusted)’- 102,000 houses
  • ‘Business as usual’ – 123,000 houses
  • ‘Transformational’ – 153,000 houses (one new house for every two we have now)

The Officer’s Report on the consultation says (1.4):

“In general, business-as-usual and standard method approaches are not well supported. Transformational growth received the highest number of positive responses (especially from developers and landowners) but additional, alternative scenarios (i.e. lower than the standard method) threshold also received wide support, especially from environmental and amenity groups.” [Our emphasis]

The consultation report also makes it clear that many of the developers are not based in Oxfordshire.

Helen Marshall said: “It is also astonishing that the Officer’s Summary Report makes no mention of the call for a Peer Review of the Oxfordshire Growth Needs Assessment (which underlies the growth options) despite this being supported by a wide range of civic groups including CPRE Oxfordshire, the Oxford Civic Society, Friends of the Earth, POETs, Bioabundance, the Oxfordshire Neighbourhood Plans Alliance and others. 

“Despite nearly five years of our local authorities working on this, we still don’t know who will make the final decision on the level of growth to be included on the Plan and on what basis.

“We are told that local authorities will get a chance to sign off the draft Plan in the summer, but by that point the chosen level of growth will already be embedded in the document. 

“CPRE’s view is that this important decision should be something that goes before all local councillors, now, in a proper democratic process.”