The decision made last week by Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to stop South Oxfordshire district councillors discussing their Local Plan, is a disgrace.

In May’s local elections, Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent candidates fought on a very clear platform of opposing the current Local Plan.

They argued that the housing figures the Local Plan was based on were out of date, that it did not address the need to tackle the climate emergency, and that several of the housing sites identified would create traffic chaos.

Local residents across the district voted for them. The Conservatives and their Local Plan were turfed out. The Conservatives went from 33 seats to only 10 overnight.

It is difficult to see how residents could have been any more clear that they opposed the Local Plan.

As a result, SODC’s Cabinet now wish to withdraw the Local Plan, and begin the process of developing a new and better one.

So, in stopping SODC councillors discussing their Local Plan, Mr Jenrick appears to be saying that he knows better than local residents about what is best for their district.

And this is the Minister in a department whose website sets out their aim in these terms:

“The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s […] job is to create great places to live and work, and to give more power to local people to shape what happens in their area.”

He needs to read his own mission statement.

I have written to Mr Jenrick asking that he works in partnership with South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse District Councils, rather than trying to dictate to them.

There is no reason why that infrastructure funding should be at risk because of other changes SODC councillors might want to make to their Local Plan. SODC have made clear that they remain committed to delivering the level of housing required to fulfil that bid.

I have worried for some time that the Oxfordshire Growth Deal is too inflexible to take account of local public opinion. The current argument over the SODC Local Plan has done nothing to reduce my concern.

I hope Mr Jenrick will agree with me that considered discussion and compromise is everyone’s preferred option rather than dictat.

He needs to work with the district council leaders to find a positive way forward that is based on the democratic mandate they have from local residents.