Inspector suggests more housing needed for West Oxon

Hulton Park

4th January 2016

Local Plan inspector has told West Oxfordshire District Council that their housing numbers are not justified and they must be reviewed (presumably upwards!). 

Although it seems a long time ago, in a galaxy far away, it is only a few years since West Oxfordshire District Council (WODC) rejected a figure of 6,700 houses for its draft Local Plan due to the potential negative sustainability impact of such a high target.

Roll on a couple of years and the final submitted draft Local Plan had a figure of 10,500.  Yet even this was lower than that identified in the Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment (2014), which said West Oxfordshire should find space for 13,200 houses by 2031.

WODC argued they should be able to put forward this lower figure due to past over-supply and the unproved economic growth figures.   CPRE Oxfordshire appeared at the planning hearings in November to support their case in principle, even though we still believed the 10,500 figure to be highly exaggerated. (See: CPRE Oxfordshire’s Hearing Statement, November 2015.)

This makes the Initial Findings from the Inspector particularly disappointing.  He has dimissed WODC’s arguments and said that the Council must follow the economic growth figures outlined in the SHMA. These are endorsed by all the other Councils in Oxfordshire and not to use them would be ‘out of step with the Government’s aims for economic growth‘.  (So no Localism, not even in the Prime Minister’s backyard!)

He also says that any revised Plan should now also wait to take account of how the overspill of unmet housing need from Oxford will be split up among the Districts.  This has been agreed as 15,000 in total but it is not yet clear how it will be divided.  Assuming an equal share to each District, West Oxfordshire would be in line for a further 3,750, potentially taking the total housing figure to 16,950 by 2031.  That’s over 10,000 more than was originally thought to be too damaging to contemplate!

And in the short-term, without a Local Plan and with a questionable 5 Year supply of housing, West Oxfordshire is also likely to be subject to a further wave of the speculative applications that have so blighted the area over the last year or so.

It’s grim news. Perhaps the only saving grace is that the Prime Minister will be getting a very close-up view of some of the worrying implications of the Government’s planning policies. 


The Inspector’s findings

The Inspector’s findings can be found in full on the WODC Local Plan website.


What next?

The second series of hearings into the Local Plan were due in February, but have now been cancelled.

In light of the Inspector’s findings, the Council is giving further consideration to its Local Plan and will decide on its most appropriate course of action before informing the Inspector.

The Inspector will then make the appropriate arrangements to move forward.

The Council have promised to keep the public informed of the Local Plan progression and there will be public consultation on any main changes to the Plan.


Revising the growth figures

Meanwhile, the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership is shortly about to embark on a refresh of the County’s Strategic Economic Plan.  CPRE is calling on our Oxfordshire Councils to work together to ensure the growth figures in this are more realistic and appropriate for a rural County, so that a revised SHMA can take this into account.



CPRE Oxfordshire, 6 January 2016