For scrutiny committee to review a summary and analysis of responses from Regulation 18 Part 2 Consultation and next steps.
Cabinet member for Planning policy introduced the report of the Project Lead for Oxfordshire Plan 2050. Cabinet member informed that she was a Vale representative on the sub-group for Oxfordshire Plan 2050, to whom she can feedback to.
Scrutiny were asked to note the latest update and the proposed roadmap from consultation to adoption. Once adopted, it would provide a high-level spatial framework to shape future planning until 2050, alongside local plans and neighbourhood plans.
A summary of responses was within the report, along with an update to the scope, including the conclusions from the consultation results and updates to the national planning policy framework and Environment Act.
The statement of community involvement had been updated and was included, to reflect the lifting of coronavirus act restrictions. The last appendix was next steps and risks associated with ensuring the timely implementation of the plan.
On noting the public speakers comments, cabinet member informed that she was awaiting the process for agreeing the numbers with the other councils, which was not clear yet. Cabinet member was committed to lower housing numbers and was not convinced that a peer review was the best approach. Regarding the consultation response suggesting a green belt review – Cabinet member would ask why this was not in the original document. Regarding a density policy, Cabinet member felt such a policy would need to be considerate of large rural areas with small parts that were very urban.
The spatial framework may be consulted on, including housing numbers - we should find out soon. Cabinet member agreed that Regulation 19 was too late to decide on numbers.
Cabinet member would take questions and points back to the sub-group.
Concern was raised about large transformational numbers wanted in Oxford City, to support affordable housing - however it was surrounding areas that needed to fulfil the affordable housing.
Officers and senior management present to support the item were Harry Barrington-Mountford, Emma Baker and Andrew Down.
Questions from the committee:
· Regarding when the numbers would be decided – details will be brought back as soon as possible. Details of getting to the Regulation 19 stage was being revised, so there was no fixed timeframe yet. Councillor Smith can take this point back to the sub-group (as Chair) and see what scrutiny could do to influence. There may be added research to do to come to a decision. Committee were reminded by Cabinet member that 5 councils involved needed to agree, and agreement was still being worked on. We had safeguarded our five-year land supply whereas neighbouring councils had not.
· If no agreement, the timeline would be adjusted and we would need to ask for an extension from the government (Department of Levelling up, housing and communities) if possible. The pressure on the timetable was dependent on agreement and Acting Deputy Chief Executive for Partnership felt that the conversations would need to take as long as they take. Agreement needed to take it forward.
· Green belt review – it was responded that this was a consultation response. The report did not commit to a green belt review. Spatial options testing would reveal if a review was required.
· What was the process to incorporate the responses into the plan? Will scrutiny be able to relook at this? Emma Baker explained that viability and spatial options needed to be conducted. As the team does this, consultation responses will be reviewed. The sub-group would consider as well when the evidence studies were completed.
· Philip Wadsworth works for all authorities as Project Lead. The template of the report was not in Vale format, as the timeline for publishing the report was very close.
· Density was for the district to decide currently. Feedback on having a county wide density policy was given and would be considered. Committee discussed whether having a county wide policy was potentially detrimental to making plans locally.
· Concern raised over lack of response from areas such as Didcot, based upon the map of responses. Emma Baker explained that some did not add their postcode. Noted that this was not complete data.
· Discussions over the intent and ramifications of a green belt review. Concern was expressed by committee.
Committee decided that for the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 report, recommendations 1-4 in the report were to remain, but with an additional decision made (point 5) on housing density.
Committee voted in favour of the following:
Chair thanked all involved for their work.