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Civic Groups Call for Review of the Oxfordshire Plan Housing Assessment

Thursday, 25 November 2021 12:02

Oxfordshire groups representing thousands of the County's residents call for an independent review of the Oxfordshire Growth Needs Assessment.

Oxfordshire groups have written a joint letter to the leaders of all Oxfordshire Councils (Note 1) calling for an independent review of the Oxfordshire Growth Needs Assessment (OGNA), the document that sets out the basis for future housing growth in Oxfordshire (Note 2). The organizations are all concerned that the OGNA process is deeply flawed.

Ian Green, Chair of the Oxford Civic Society, said ‘The OGNA is fundamental to the Oxfordshire Plan 2050. This has to be right. We feel that a review of the whole approach to determining housing and employment growth is needed.’ 

The joint letter (which is also being sent to the Members of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Advisory Group and the six Oxfordshire MPs), also expresses concern over the process by which the housing growth will be determined (Note 3). 

Helen Marshall, Director of CPRE Oxfordshire, said ‘We have no understanding of how the decision on housing growth will be taken, or the criteria that will be used or indeed who will make this decision and we are urgently seeking clarity on this’. 

Chris Church, of Oxford Friends of the Earth, added ‘The OGNA process is going to affect the lives of people across Oxfordshire for the next thirty years and beyond. The way in which the figures were developed is extremely questionable. An independent review – ideally by respected academics – is essential if people are to have any trust in this process’.

Suzanne McIvor, of Cherwell Development Watch Alliance (a member of Need Not Greed Oxfordshire), said ‘Our experience of local authority plan making consultations is that the views of the electorate and civic groups are ignored.  The councils are required to consult but are under no obligation to change their plans. It is reasonable of civic groups to want their concerns on the OGNA, which is fundamental to the whole Oxfordshire Plan, to be heard’.

David Young of ‘POETS’, also commented ‘The uncertainties of planning over a 30 year time period, in a declared Climate Emergency, and indeed in the post-Brexit and the Covid pandemic period, mean the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 approach needs to be more cautious and contingent.

Ian Green added: “The groups believe that a suitably commissioned review, ideally with input from civic groups on the terms of reference, would significantly contribute to building consensus behind the Oxfordshire 2050 Plan and to a more meaningful consultation. We have asked for this to be on the Future Oxfordshire Partnership agenda next week’.

Groups supporting the letter include:

Oxford Civic Society

Need not Greed Oxfordshire coalition (representing 37 organisations around the county)

Oxfordshire Friends of the Earth

CPRE Oxfordshire

Cherwell Development Watch Alliance (CDWA)

Oxfordshire Neighbourhood Plans Alliance

POETS

Bioabundance CIC

GARD

STARC

Wolvercote Neighbourhood Forum

Thame Friends of the Earth

Sustainable Woodstock

Low Carbon Oxford North

Chinnor Climate Action

Note 1:
The letter has gone to the leaders of the Oxfordshire District, City and County Councils, who are the voting members of the Future Oxfordshire Partnership, previously known as the Oxfordshire Growth Board. 

Note 2:
The letter asks for a review of the Oxfordshire Growth Needs Assessment (OGNA), the document that proposes the three growth projections which could be used as the basis for assessing the scale of longer-term housing growth in Oxfordshire.  

These were described in the recent Regulation 18 Part 2 consultation on the Oxfordshire 2050 Plan as: 

‘Standard Method’ (101,000 dwellings),

‘Business as Usual’ (123,000 dwellings) and

‘Transformational’ (153,000). 

All figures include the 85,000 dwellings already committed in recently adopted local plans with the difference between the highest and lowest trajectories being over 50,000 dwellings. 

Note 3:
There is concern amongst the civic groups that the unease about the OGNA (which some groups expressed in their recent consultation responses) will be overlooked and the plan makers will just ‘forge ahead’ to the next stage of the plan which will be the Regulation 19 consultation next summer.  This is similar to what happened with the 2014 Strategic Housing Market Assessment which was the subject of controversy for many years and many civic groups remain unhappy that it has been used as the basis for the housing numbers in existing local plans.  

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