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.”
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.