SODC’s new Local Plan
On 29th March 2017, South Oxfordshire District Council published the latest draft of the update of its Local Plan and the Public Consultation period lasted until 17th May. There was no consultation event in the village this time on the grounds that appropriate consultation will take place through the Neighbourhood Plan process.
You can see the details by visiting http://www.southoxon.gov.uk/newlocalplan
The Local Plan is the “parent” document to all the individual village Neighbourhood Plans which have been or are being prepared across the District. This is the next step in the process of updating SODC’s 2012 Core Strategy, following the Public Consultation on the “2032 Preferred Options” document last summer.
The following extract from the Association’s Spring 2017 Newsletter summarises our response to that Consultation.
“Goring’s Neighbourhood Plan will – once approved – form part of the larger SODC Local Plan, the current approved version of which is known as the 2027 Core Strategy. The council is now in the process of updating this to cover the period up to 2032 in the light of a new analysis of housing needs in the whole county and you may recall a rather low-key public consultation event was held by SODC in the village in June 2016.
Whilst this event was organised separately from the Neighbourhood Plan process, the two processes are linked in that the Neighbourhood Plan will need to take account of SODC’s proposal (subsequently watered down to a suggestion) that Goring should accommodate considerably more new homes than has hitherto been proposed.
The committee submitted a written response to this consultation supporting the view expressed by large numbers of villagers at the June event, as well as at the Neighbourhood Plan’s May 2016 Open Day, that the village is unable to accept even more new homes because of the physical constraints of its location between the river and the Chilterns, wholly within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Building larger numbers would harm the very features which make Goring an attractive location for residents and visitors alike. We also pointed out that the reasons given by SODC for not increasing the housing allocation for Henley (which is not actually within the AONB) applied even more to Goring.
For more information see the SODC website www.southoxon.gov.uk/services-and-advice/planning-and-building/planning-policy/local-plan-2032 “
The new document continues to “suggest” that Goring should accommodate more new homes than the 86 currently being planned for, 165 more to be precise, making a new total of 251. If Goring’s Plan proposes fewer than this, the Plan will need to contain evidence in justification. Other points noted so far are that SODC is now proposing some limited development within the Oxford Green Belt and in smaller villages (probably a sensible compromise) and to develop a more joined-up approach to necessary infrastructure development.
The committee’s response to these latest proposals is summarised below:
We welcome the proposals to locate significant amounts of new housing and employment development at three strategic sites (some of which are within the Oxford Green Belt). We also approve of the proposals to allow some other development within the Green Belt and in the Smaller Villages, thereby relieving the demand for sites elsewhere.
We are still far from convinced by the arguments for the overall number of new homes needed in the District, especially regarding the true need in the Larger Villages in the south of the district (Policy STRAT2 refers). We consider that the numbers are excessively high and risk seriously undermining the Vision (para. 3.3 on page 19) to keep South Oxfordshire a desirable place to live. The plans for meeting these targets are also in conflict with several other objectives and policies including OBJ1.2, 1.3, 3.3, 3.7, 5.2, 7.1 and ENV1. The solution to these conflicts lies in reducing the overall numbers for new homes in the Plan to a more realistic, achievable and sustainable level.
We agree strongly with the broad principle that housing numbers as well as locations in each village should be determined through the Neighbourhood Plan process (OBJ 6.1 and Policy H1).
We strenuously object to the implication in Policy H4 that Goring on Thames should accommodate more new homes (other than infill developments) than the 105 already allocated in the Core Strategy. This reflects the overwhelming view expressed by several hundred residents who took part in two polls on the subject at village events during 2016. Any increase on the Core Strategy number would conflict with OBJ 5.2 as well as OBJ 1.2, 1.3 3.2, 3.3, 3.7,and 7.1, Policy STRAT 1 and Policy ENV1.
We note the proposal in Policy STRAT 1 that all the larger villages should expand by around 15% of their 2011 housing stock and also the caveat regarding villages with special constraints. We consider that Goring provides a prime example of such constraints, due to its location wholly within the Chilterns AONB, overlooked by the adjacent North Wessex Downs AONB, bordered by the River Thames on one side and the steeply rising hillsides on the other, together with the existing lack of capacity of the school and medical facilities. These landscape constraints have already been identified by two recent Landscape Surveys, one commissioned by SODC and the other by the Goring Neighbourhood Plan, which have ruled out all but a few of the potential development sites currently under consideration through the Neighbourhood Plan.
We note the re-iteration of the desire to ensure that provision of infrastructure improvements keeps pace with increased demand (OBJ4.1). We acknowledge that the creation of one or more Unitary Authorities could facilitate some of this but we remain to be fully convinced that this can be achieved because some of the responsible agencies would remain outwith the Authorities’ control.
This response had to be submitted before the views of the Parish Council and the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group were known but it is now known that there is no conflict with their subsequently-published views.
The views of members on this issue continue to be essential to us so we encourage you all to let us know your own opinions using the form below.
SODC’s report on this Consultation and the finalversion of their plan are expected to be published towards the end of this year (2017).