COUNCILLORS across the political spectrum agreed that changes to the planning system were not suitable for West Oxfordshire.

West Oxfordshire District Council’s cabinet met on Wednesday to seek to agree a response to the Government’s consultation on changes to the planning system.

West Oxfordshire includes the towns of Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton and the site of a planned new garden village at Eynsham.

The Government consultation paper focuses on four main topics: the standard method for assessing housing need; delivering first homes (the Government’s latest form of affordable home ownership); raising the small sites threshold for affordable housing provision and extending the current system of ‘permission in principle’ to larger developments.

Councillors however were in unison on the topic, agreeing across the board that the changes were not suited to the district.

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Cabinet member Michele Mead said: “The White Paper is not fit for all, I don’t think the ruralness of West Oxfordshire has been taken into account.

“Officers put together a really good robust response to go back to the Government with.

“That will also be sent to Robert Courts and hopefully he can lobby on our behalf.”

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Meanwhile, independent councillor Merilyn Davies also raised concerns about the consultation.

She said: “As a council, the response was that it was too rushed, too much of a one-size-fits-all and too top-down.

“It doesn’t fit us as it doesn’t take into account rural areas, and removes local democracy from the process.

“The response from the council is that some parts were agreed with but it was felt there were too many things wrong with it.

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“The Government White Paper also gives even more rein to ‘permission in principle’.

“The thing with planning, is it’s not really a political thing so there was plenty of cross-party agreement.”

Liberal Democrat councillor was sceptical of the consultation, but was happy to see Conservative colleagues go against the Government.

He said: “I’m very pleased there was complete unity, the Government changes won’t create better housing.

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“It was good to see my Tory colleagues put their nails to the mast and say these reforms are not a good idea.

“None of us think this will be a better solution and that the reforms will work.”

Prior to the meeting, the changes had drawn criticism from council officer Chris Hargraves, the council’s planning policy manager.

The paper is the subject of an 8-week public consultation, which closes on October 1.