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Oxfordshire Councils agree new approach to co-ordinating planning in county

 27 September, 2022

housing development in Oxfordshire

On Wednesday 27 September, following the cessation of work on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, the Future Oxfordshire Partnership agreed a new approach to co-ordinating planning across the county by updating the remit of the Oxfordshire Plan Advisory Group.

The work towards the Oxfordshire Plan was only one part of a long-standing and continued collaboration between the local authorities in Oxfordshire. The valuable insights gained in the progress of drawing up the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 and the results of its public consultations will be carried into the next phase of delivering their shared goal of shaping a healthy, happy future for the county and ensuring Oxfordshire is at the forefront of tackling the most pressing problems facing humanity.

All six councils have formally adopted a shared Strategic Vision for the county, which sets out ambitious goals for sustainable travel, affordable housing, and a healthy natural environment, accessible to all. Each coucil is working to deliver this vision. Following Wednesday’s meeting, the councils have also agreed that continued collaborative working on spatial planning matters will be valuable.

A new Terms of Reference is being drawn up to ensure that a members’ advisory group with planning policy portfolio holders from each authority can continue to discuss spatial planning and issues that impact the County as a whole. The Advisory Group will continue to update the Future Oxfordshire Partnership to ensure a full picture of progress on District and City councils’ Local Plans and other relevant plans like the county’s Local Transport and Connectivity Plan.

Councillor Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council and Chair of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Advisory Group on behalf of FOP, said:

“A huge amount of positive work went into the Oxfordshire Plan process, and while I am disappointed that the approach to creating a joint strategic spatial plan could not be agreed, I welcome FOP’s agreement that the advisory group of planning policy lead members from across the six council will continue to meet to discuss shared spatial planning challenges and ways for the councils to work together in line with the Strategic Vision”

Joint statement from Council Leaders on Oxfordshire Plan 2050

 3 August, 2022

Oxfordshire Plan 2050 – Joint statement from the leaders of South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council, Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, and West Oxfordshire District Council

“The five Local Planning authorities in Oxfordshire have been working together on a joint plan for Oxfordshire to 2050. It is with regret that we were unable to reach agreement on the approach to planning for future housing needs within the framework of the Oxfordshire Plan.

“Local Plans for the City and Districts will now provide the framework for the long term planning of Oxfordshire.  The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 work programme will end and we will now transition to a process focused on Local Plans.  The issues of housing needs will now be addressed through individual Local Plans for each of the City and Districts.  The Councils will cooperate with each other and with other key bodies as they prepare their Local Plans.”

Work begins on £10.9m development of 36 new homes in Oxford city centre

Work has started on a flagship Oxford City Council development to build 36 new homes in Oxford city centre.

Council housing company Oxford City Housing Ltd (OCHL) and developers Willmott Dixon have now begun ground work on the £10.9m project to redevelop the site of former homeless hostel Lucy Faithfull House. The new homes will be in a single block of four to six storeys, made up of 8 one-bed flats, 17 two-bed flats and one three-bed flat.

The project is being supported with more than £1m in funding from the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal and nearly three quarters (72%) of the development will be affordable – exceeding a council requirement for 50% affordable housing on developments of 10 or more homes.

The 36 flats will include 15 council homes let at social rent, three homes at affordable rent and eight homes sold on a shared ownership basis. The remaining 10 flats will be for market sale.

Due to open in late 2022, the project is part of OCHL’s ambitions to deliver more than 2,200 homes in and around Oxford over the coming decade.

The Lucy Faithfull House site homes also represent an investment in the sustainable future of Oxford by aiming for at least 40% beyond current government carbon reduction targets – helping the city on its journey to zero carbon for new developments by 2030.

The development will be car free, with the exception of two parking spaces for flats that can be adapted for people using wheelchairs. Each flat will have two bike parking spaces and rooftop solar panels will help generate up to 40% of the development’s energy use.

Each flat will have a private garden or balcony and the homes will also have access to two feature communal courtyards.

An archaeological excavation earlier this year unearthed new evidence of a Dominican Order (Blackfriars) friary which sat on the site from 1246 until after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538. The new development will reference the Blackfriars’ black and white coat of arms by using light and dark building materials throughout.

The Lucy Faithfull House site homes are part of OCHL’s programme to build 1,891 homes for rent and sale over the coming decade. Together with 354 council homes being built at Barton Park, this will see a total of 1,125 council homes providing the genuinely affordable housing that Oxford needs.

This programme will represent the first significant development of council housing in Oxford since the 1970s.

Another 301 homes are expected to be shared ownership and other affordable tenures. Shared ownership gives people the opportunity to get a foot on the property ladder by buying a stake in their homes that they would not otherwise be able to afford.

The remaining homes will be for market sale and the money raised by selling them will subsidise the building of council and other affordable housing.

OCHL is in the process of establishing a procurement framework for modular housing that will play a vital role in ensuring new housing in Oxford meets the zero carbon target. This framework will also provide the resources and expertise to unlock difficult sites that traditional developers would be unable to do while meeting the council’s requirements for affordable homes.

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, cabinet member for planning and housing delivery, said: “Oxford needs new homes and this flagship project will see OCHL deliver 36 new low carbon homes in the heart of our city. And more than that, Oxford needs more new affordable homes, which is why I am delighted that this scheme is providing 15 council homes at social rent and another 11 sub-market homes for affordable rent or shared ownership.”

Helen Horne, managing director at OCHL, said: “Redeveloping the former Lucy Faithfull House site will provide much-needed homes in the city centre and OCHL are pleased to now be working with Wilmott Dixon to help deliver these. These are early days, but this project is an integral part of our plans to build nearly 1,900 sustainable new homes in the coming decade.”

Richard Poulter, managing director at Willmott Dixon’s Central South region, said: “We are delighted to have started on site at Lucy Faithfull House. Procured through the Southern Construction Framework, the project will play an important role in OCHL delivering the council’s ambitious housing development programme.

“The requirement from the council to deliver a building with sustainability at its heart fits well with the principles of our organisation. Through our 2030 ‘Now or Never’ sustainability strategy, we are on our own journey to achieve net zero carbon in operation within the next decade.”

Growth Board Says Let’s Build Affordable Homes

Oxfordshire Growth Board held an event for developers and registered providers of social housing to invite them to help deliver new affordable homes across the county supported by funding from the Housing and Growth Deal.

The event was held at Didcot Civic Hall 09:30-14:30 on Thursday 18 October. Officers from all four District Councils and Oxford City Council will set out details of the three-year programme to deliver at least 1,320 additional affordable homes countywide.

All forms of affordable tenure will be supported, including rent to buy, shared ownership, and homes for affordable and social rent to meet the needs of residents across the county and support the growth of the local economy.

Developers were also told of the Growth Board’s commitment to support and scale-up the application of off-site modular housing construction, and to build on the experience of Oxfordshire’s successful Bicester and Barton Healthy New Town initiatives to deliver healthy homes and communities.

Councillor Roger Cox, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, who hosted the event said:

“We want this programme to be a beacon of success and a step change in the delivery of affordable housing in Oxfordshire.   We are interested in providing for those on the lowest incomes, but we want also to help those who aspire to own their own homes. We want to develop the different types of housing that will meet the specific needs of the many different localities across the county.

“Most of all we want to create places in which to live, work and play that will be a legacy for our children and their families and to achieve this we both need and want to work in partnership with developers and registered providers.”

Kate Wareing, Chief Executive, SOHA Housing, said:

“Housing in Oxfordshire is amongst the most expensive in the country compared to average earnings, with a huge proportion of the people of Oxfordshire unable to access the affordable, secure accommodation they want and need for them and their families. Soha welcomes the Oxfordshire Growth Deal’s focus on enabling an increase in the number of affordable homes that can be built in Oxfordshire. Key to its success will be a combination of access to funding, supporting access to land at below market rates and enabling collaborations that create new opportunities to build more homes. We look forward to building more new homes for the people of Oxfordshire.”

More information about how the new affordable housing will be delivered and a detailed prospectus for developers can be viewed below.

Let’s Build Affordable Homes

Oxfordshire Affordable Homes Prospectus

Homes England Presentation

Affordable Housing Launch Presentation

SOHA Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal Presentation – Oct 18

Application Form

More clarity on Oxford to Cambridge Expressway required

The Oxfordshire Growth Board has called for the government to provide more clarity on its proposals for the route of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway in Oxfordshire.

The chair of the Growth Board, Cllr Jane Murphy, has written to the Minister for Transport and the project’s director at Highways England explaining how the lack of certainty will affect work the board is doing to help plan for effective and sustainable growth that enhances the quality of life in Oxfordshire.

“you can read copies of the letters here”

Letter to Secretary of State Letter to Highways England

On 12 September the government announced its preference for a corridor that would take the new key road past Bicester and on to Cambridge via Milton Keynes. The road will begin somewhere along the A34 to the south of Oxford, but the government has not yet announced if it would prefer the road to route around the west of the city or to the east.

As part of the Oxfordshire Growth Deal, the growth board is preparing a plan to identify strategic growth areas for the whole county, known as the Joint Statutory Spatial Plan (JSSP). The lack of certainty over the route of the expressway through the county will make it more difficult to identify local transport needs and the most appropriate areas of growth.

In her letter, Cllr Murphy also explains that the Growth Board has agreed a set of principles saying that any decisions on the expressway should help to secure more sustainable public transport links for the county, minimise its environmental damage, support growth as set out in the JSSP and be future-proofed to enable forthcoming and future innovations like the rise of autonomous vehicles.

Cllr Jane Murphy “The expressway will have an impact on every resident and business in every area of Oxfordshire and the board is united in its belief that the government’s announcement in September has raised as many questions for Oxfordshire as it has answered.

“Much of the work the growth board is doing, in particular in relation to the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, will be directly or indirectly affected by the expressway, and we need more certainty if we’re to deliver the work required of us effectively.”

Government announcement provides planning assurance for Oxfordshire

The Secretary of State has provided Oxfordshire’s local authorities with a Written Ministerial Statement that confirms temporary bespoke arrangements that will offer protection against speculative planning applications during the three year period of development of the county-wide Joint Statutory Spatial Plan (JSSP). Under the new arrangements, each of Oxfordshire’s five District Councils will be required to demonstrate that they have in place only a 3-year housing land supply instead of the usual 5-year supply required by national policy.

Oxfordshire’s councils have committed to develop the JSSP as part of the £215 million Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal. The JSSP, which is due to be adopted in 2021, will complement the existing Local Plan process and set the strategic direction for planning across the county to 2050.

Councillor James Mills, Chairman of Oxfordshire Growth Board’s JSSP Advisory Sub Group said,

“This is welcome news and demonstrates the Government’s commitment towards the Oxfordshire Growth Deal so that we can plan our future growth with the assurance in place we are protected against speculative planning applications. We want the right types of future development to be in the best possible locations and to have the necessary community facilities. They need to be planned for and to have undergone public consultation.”

Written Ministerial Statement made by: James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 12 September 2018

In March this year the Government committed to the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, to support ambitious plans to deliver 100,000 homes by 2031. The Oxfordshire-wide Joint Statutory Spatial Plan to be adopted by 2021 will be supported by £215 million of funding to help deliver more affordable housing and infrastructure improvements to support sustainable development across the county.
Paragraph 217 of the National Planning Policy Framework sets out that the Government will explore potential planning freedoms and flexibilities, for example where this would facilitate an increase in the amount of housing that can be delivered. Such freedoms and flexibilities are to be considered by the Government on a case by case basis. In this instance the Government has worked closely with the authorities in Oxfordshire to agree planning freedoms and flexibilities that will support the ambitious plan-led approach through a Joint Spatial Strategy and the Housing Deal.
As part of the Housing Deal, Oxfordshire sought flexibility from the National Planning Policy Framework policy on maintaining a 5 year housing land supply. This policy supports the delivery of housing by ensuring sufficient land is coming forward to meet housing need. However, we recognise the ambitious plans in Oxford to deliver above their housing need in the long term. The Government wants to support this strategic approach to supporting housing delivery through joint working. We have therefore agreed to provide a short term flexibility which will support the delivery of the local plans for the area and ensure that the local authorities can focus their efforts on their Joint Spatial Strategy. The Government recognises that in the short term this will result in fewer permissions being granted under paragraph 11 of the National Planning Policy Framework but the Government believes that it is important to support these ambitious plans that will deliver more housing in the longer term.

Having considered the responses from a local consultation, which closed on the 12th July 2018, I am today implementing a temporary change to housing land supply policies as they apply in Oxfordshire.

For the purposes of decision-taking under paragraph 11(d), footnote 7 of the National Planning Policy Framework will apply where the authorities in Oxfordshire cannot demonstrate a three year supply of deliverable housing sites (with the appropriate buffer, as set out in paragraph 73). This policy flexibility does not apply to the Housing Delivery Test limb of footnote 7 of the National Planning Policy Framework nor plan making policy in paragraph 67. If a local authority intends to fix their land supply under paragraph 74 they will still be required to demonstrate a minimum of five year supply of deliverable housing sites, with the appropriate buffer.
This statement is a material consideration in planning decisions and applies to those local planning authorities in Oxfordshire with whom the Government has agreed the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, namely Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council. This statement applies from today and remains in effect until the adoption of the Joint Statutory Spatial Plan in each area, provided the timescales agreed in the Housing and Growth Deal are adhered to. I will monitor progress against these timescales and keep the planning flexibility set out in this statement under review.