Councils across Oxfordshire have announced that they have been unable to agree on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 – a plan to create a joint vision for where and how many houses will be built in the county.
The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 was one of the commitments made by the six Oxfordshire authorities as part of the £215 million Housing & Growth Deal to help deliver greatly needed new homes – including affordable and social housing – and infrastructure to the county while helping to tackle climate change.
The cancellation of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 draws to an end a number of years of collaboration between the Oxfordshire authorities through the Future Oxfordshire Partnership (formerly known as the Oxfordshire Growth Board).
In a joint statement, the leaders of the Oxfordshire Councils said: “The five local planning authorities in Oxfordshire have been working together on a joint plan for Oxfordshire to 2050.
“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.”
While The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 did not intend to allocate sites for housing or employment, it would have identified areas for sustainable growth with associated housing and employment numbers while considering how to help tackle climate change, improve water efficiency and mitigate flood risk.
Districts would have used this to produce future Local Plans, which would have provided a detailed view of how housing and infrastructure would have been delivered and how they would have addressed the climate emergency.
Ian Green, Chair of Oxford Civic Society, said: “We have been told the plan has been abandoned because the four districts and the city cannot agree on housing and growth targets. That is a problem that leads to other serious problems.
“This is not just about housing numbers and the Green Belt. The Oxfordshire 2050 plan was supposed to address cross-boundary planning matters across the county. The draft Plan also covered issues such as tackling climate change, improving environmental quality and creating stronger and healthy communities.
“A huge amount of good work has been done on these issues, and many of the draft policies were widely supported. The best parts of these will not easily be taken forward by five different Local Plans that may conflict or compete.
“We need answers from our councillors on how the future of Oxfordshire as a whole is to be planned. We will be inviting all the councils to take part in a public forum where they can explain and discuss how they intend to move forward on this.
“Last year, the councils stated that they had found ‘common ground’ on many issues. This must not disappear. They must ensure that the planning and research that went into the many policies in this plan that were widely supported is not lost. If these policies are to be in the next versions of City and District Local Plans, that could be a valuable resource.
“OCS will look at drawing together some of the best policies and ask all councils to endorse them as a statement of commitment for future Local Plans.”