Green Party councillors at South Oxfordshire District Council have recommended at Cabinet this morning that council officers should use the local planning process to address their, and residents’, concerns about the climate emergency, environmental standards in planning policy, and appropriate housing for the district.
Although the Green – Lib Dem partnership Cabinet had recommended withdrawal of the submitted Local Plan in October 2019, subsequent legal directions by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, have meant that the Plan must now progress through inspection by the end of 2020.
Oxfordshire County Council had voted on 11th February to accept an offer to take the plan through inspection, if offered it by the Secretary of State. Oxfordshire’s new Green County Councillor, Dr Pete Sudbury, said at that County meeting: “A Conservative minister forcing through a Conservative plan, by giving it to a Conservative County Council is not democracy, it is a one-party state.”
Green councillors have pushed to prevent that outcome and find a solution which keeps local democratic control over the plan.
Although far from ideal, the latest legal direction allows councillors to reflect residents’ concerns and propose changes during the inspection process, as well as to keep control over the implementation of the plan, and the ability to influence wider projects such as Oxfordshire Plan 2050 and the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. These projects will have a major say on the direction of housing, transport and environmental policies. In the year the UN’s climate conference, COP26, comes to the UK – and in the light of recent legal rulings such as the Heathrow case – Greens will be making the case at all levels for substantial policy improvements.
Green Councillor Andrea Powell comments, “We are glad to have secured a clear statement on how we will address concerns about the Local Plan, particularly on the climate emergency and environmental standards. It’s also important to remember that the Local Plan was never going to be the main vehicle for region-wide nature recovery planning. This can only be done at scale and we can continue to influence this vital agenda if we have a seat at the table for the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 and the Arc.”
South Oxfordshire’s full council will vote on the proposal tonight (Thursday, 5 March 2020).
Editor’s note: Voters in South Oxfordshire responded to the Green message in May 2019, and voted in 6 Green councillors, who formed a partnership administration with the Lib Dems. The emerging Local Plan 2034 had been submitted by the outgoing Conservative administration shortly before the elections, and in April 2019 South Oxfordshire District Council declared a Climate Emergency. Dr Pete Sudbury was elected to Oxfordshire County Council at a by-election in November 2019.
For further information, please contact:
Councillor Robin Bennett on 07979 646815 or [email protected]