Move appears to put an end to 100,000-home ‘Housing and Growth’ deal signed in 2017 with government
Oxfordshire councils have terminated proposals for an ambitious joint housing plan, in a move that appears to put an end to a 2017 deal with the government to build 100,000 homes in the county by 2031.
Five Oxfordshire authorities had been working together on a joint spatial strategy to 2050, on which they had consulted on options as recently as last summer, which had been supposed to provide the policy backbone behind the £215m Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal signed five years ago.
The five authorities yesterday issued a joint statement saying that they had been unable to reach agreement between the councils on a way forward for the plan, and will now be taking forward housing proposals through their individual local plans.
Since the deal was agreed between the authorities and then housing secretary Sajid Javid, two Oxfordshire districts – South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse – along with the County Council itself, have changed political control following campaigns opposing housing development.
It was not immediately clear what impact the decision will have upon the £215m of funding attached to the housing and growth deal. The original agreement between government and the councils had made the creation of a joint plan a condition of the agreement, with a timetable of adoption by March 2021.
The plan which the five authorities had been consulting upon had proposed three options for housing growth in the county: one of 3,386 homes per year, based upon the government’s “standard method” for calculating housing need, a second figure of 4,113 homes per year it characterised as “business-as-usual”; and a third “transformational trajectory” of 5,093 homes per year.
The decision comes after the government earlier this year decided to stop central backing for the Oxford to Cambridge growth arc, within which it had previously backed plans for one million homes. It also comes in the wake of a raft of local authorities withdrawing local plans in the light of the government’s decision to backtrack of pro-development planning reforms.
In the joint statement, the leaders of Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council, West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “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.”
Duncan Stott, director of the affordable house price campaign PricedOut, said on Twitter: “So all-in-all, Oxfordshire wasted 5 years, our ruinous housing costs will go unaddressed, the growth deal and the associated grant is presumably dead, and the monolithic green belt will continue to poison the housing and transport options for tens of thousands of Oxford workers.”