Oxford City Council is preparing to launch a new round of public consultation as the next steps in developing its Local Plan 2040 looks set for approval by the council’s cabinet.
All local planning authorities need to have an up-to-date local plan, supported by an evidence base, which sets out how and where homes, jobs, and infrastructure will be delivered.
At its next meeting on Wednesday, 08 February, the cabinet is expected to approve a consultation on a further preferred options document focusing on housing needs, together with a new independent report providing the evidence base underpinning the local plan.
This will be the third round of public consultation on the emerging local plan and follows a consultation on emerging issues in 2021 and on preferred options in 2022.
Consultation is expected to start on Monday, 13 February, and run for six weeks until Monday, 27 March.
The council will use consultation results to guide the further development of its draft Local Plan 2040.
This is expected to go out for further consultation in November and December before a final draft is submitted for examination by government inspectors by the end of March 2024.
Assessing housing needs
The evidence base report is a housing and employment needs assessment (HENA) that was jointly commissioned by Oxford City Council and Cherwell District Council to support the development of their respective local plans.
The national planning policy framework (NPPF) sets out a standard method as a starting point for assessing housing needs. However, this has not been adjusted to take account of the 2021 Census, and the NPPF allows for alternative approaches where there are exceptional local circumstances, as there are in Oxfordshire.
Oxfordshire has a strong and diverse economy, which is forecast to keep growing, even during a prolonged period of economic volatility as a result of Brexit, COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This is primarily due to the county’s world-class life science, education and technology sectors. In particular, there’s a strong and growing demand for lab and R&D space.
The HENA considers a range of scenarios. From this analysis, the council concludes that the best way to objectively measure housing needs is to forecast future job growth and then calculate the number of homes needed to support this sustainably.
Under this model – referred to as the Cambridge Econometrics Baseline Trend – Oxford will need 1,322 new homes, and Cherwell will need 1,009 new homes each year between 2020 and 2040.
As people’s home and work lives transcend individual council boundaries, the HENA is based on Oxfordshire’s distinctive employment and housing market area.
However, its purpose is to specifically inform the review of both Oxford and Cherwell local plans. Oxfordshire’s other district councils will produce their own evidence in developing their respective local plans.
Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, cabinet member for planning and housing delivery, said: “As the Local Plan 2040 will set out how and where we intend to deliver jobs and homes in Oxford, we require robust and objective evidence on exactly what’s needed.
“The HENA is an independent evaluation providing that evidence, which will be used to underpin the development of both our Local Plan and Cherwell’s. The Local Plan 2040 will help guide the development of our city for the next 20 years, and I look forward to launching a public consultation in February.”