Oxford homes chief criticises district councils’ local plans

Oxford City Council’s executive director for regeneration and housing, David Edwards

Oxford City Council’s executive director for regeneration and housing, David Edwards

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

OXFORD’S housing boss has accused the county’s other councils of “kicking the can down the road” when it comes to housing.

David Edwards, Oxford City Council’s executive director for regeneration and housing, has criticised Oxfordshire’s other district authorities for not taking the city’s housing needs into account when drawing up their blueprints for the future.

A recent study – called a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) – shows that Oxford needs 28,000 homes by 2031 and Mr Edwards said he expected the city would only be able to fit in 8,000 of these.

He said that the Government would expect Oxford’s neighbouring areas to help meet the demand for housing.

Mr Edwards said: “They are playing the longest game they can on this but that horizon is getting shorter. We have now got the SHMA figures which all districts signed up for.

“The clear advice we are getting is that if you get your local plan through without our figures, then you will have to do another review in 12 months.

“Local plans have to be up to date and valid and properly take account of housing need, and that includes not only housing need in your area but nearby need where it cannot be met.

“The Government has said it might be prepared to accept an interim period where your plan looks after your own need, but don’t take that as a licence to kick the can down the road for another five years.”

Mr Edwards said Oxford would probably have to expand to the north and to the south to meet its demand for housing.

The city council has long wanted to build 4,000 homes on Green Belt land south of Grenoble Road, but this lies within South Oxfordshire which is opposed to this.

But South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) itself has to find space for 15,500 homes by 2031 and is reviewing its local plan.

Cherwell District Council has attempted to create a local plan with housing numbers lower than the SHMA, but was told by a planning inspector this would be unacceptable.

Figures in the SHMA said Oxfordshire would need an extra 100,000 homes by 2031, but this is disputed by bodies such as the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.

Mr Edwards claimed revised figures by the district councils had still not taken into account the city’s overspill numbers.

He said: “Cherwell District Council are now having to bulk up their numbers. They haven’t even got the city’s numbers in there.

“SODC and Vale have put their new numbers in, but have not included the city’s.”

Spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, Simon Edwards, said: “All local authorities should identify five years’ worth of housing supply in their areas and any local plan must be prepared in co-operation with neighbouring local authorities.

“Local plans should be kept up-to-date, but it does not automatically mean housing assessments are outdated every time new data emerges.”

Michael Gibbard, Cherwell District Council lead member for planning, said: “The role of the Cherwell local plan is to take account of projected growth within Cherwell District, not to accommodate the claims of Oxford City Council.

“There will be further consideration when we know what the city’s unmet need is.

“Cherwell is committed to engage with the city council on this but will not be dictated to by it.”

Warwick Robinson, West Oxfordshire District Council’s cabinet member for strategic planning and housing, said: “Work to determine the extent of Oxford’s ‘unmet’ housing need is not yet complete, so we don’t know the scale of the problem.

“We will work with the city and other districts to consider different options to address the needs once the position is clearer, however given the complexities involved this will take some time, and it is important we progress our Local Plan.”

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