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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.

Growth Board consults on measures to provide increased protection against speculative housing development in Oxfordshire

The Oxfordshire Growth Board is to consult stakeholders and the public on a proposal to provide Oxfordshire councils with greater protection from speculative housing development as they plan for the county’s future housing needs.

In many parts of Oxfordshire unplanned speculative housing development in relatively unsustainable locations is raising significant community concerns, contributing relatively little to infrastructure, and diverting planning resources away from the delivery of planned strategic development sites.

The Government has recognised this challenge. It has proposed additional, time-limited protection under the terms of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, signed in March 2018. This is the first time the Government has offered local authorities bespoke planning measures to protect against speculative housing development.

The proposal is that the Oxfordshire Councils will need to provide only a three-year land supply for the duration of the development of a Joint Statutory Spatial Plan (JSSP). A five-year minimum land supply is normally required.  In addition it is proposed that a bespoke Housing Delivery Test (HDT) would apply to Oxfordshire councils for three years following submission of the JSSP. These measures will make it harder for unplanned speculative housing development to get planning permission and will allow the Councils to focus on the preparation of the JSSP and the associated individual Local Plans.

These planning freedoms and flexibilities would be assessed on an individual District basis.  They are dependent upon the Government’s proposed changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and National Planning Policy Guidance, which were recently consulted upon.  The measures would be delivered through a Ministerial Statement following the finalisation of the revised NPPF.

The measures will support a plan-led approach from the Oxfordshire’s councils as they support the delivery of circa 100,000 new homes across the county between 2011 and 2031, in order to address the county’s severe housing shortage and expected economic growth.

Local Plans are taking shape across Oxfordshire’s five district councils, with adopted Local Plans in place in Cherwell and Vale of White Horse, a recently examined Plan in West Oxfordshire, and new Local Plans underway for Oxford City and South Oxfordshire.

The JSSP, which will be in place by 2021, will set the strategic direction for planning across the county to 2050 and complement the existing Local Plan process. It will give the public a clear overview of the countywide growth picture and offer greater opportunities to engage in collective decision making and to avoid incremental, speculative and unplanned development.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council which currently holds the chair of the Growth Board, said:

“Through the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth deal we have secured important protections from Government against the sort of unplanned, speculative development that is blighting parts of our beautiful county. This gives us the breathing space to develop a Joint Statutory Spatial Plan over the next few years in consultation with local communities and stakeholders, that will set out a blueprint for good, sustainable growth in the future with properly planned new housing backed by social and transport infrastructure “

Councillor James Mills, Leader at West Oxfordshire District Council said,

“An Oxfordshire-wide strategy will provide further protection for local communities from speculative developments and help Councils manage housing growth effectively. Alongside our Local Plan, it  will help ensure that housing development is in the most appropriate location for our communities and that we can protect the character and appearance of our environment.”

Consultation Arrangements

The consultation will open on the 31 May 2018 and close on the 12 July at 23:45 pm.  This consultation document is available online at www.oxfordshiregrowthboard.org and is open to everyone. We are keen to hear from a wide range of interested parties from across the public and private sectors, as well as from the general public.

Go to the consultation