CAMPAIGNERS have begun the process for taking their local council's unpopular housing plan to court.

South Oxfordshire District Council approved its Local Plan at the end of last year, a document which sets out where 30,000 homes can be built in the area between now and 2035.

The council's Liberal Democrat and Green had tried to scrap the plan because they were concerned it would lead to overdevelopment in the largely rural district, but were ordered by Government to pass it.

Now a company called Bioabundance CIC has began the process of taking the council to court in a judicial review, also known as a statutory challenge over the plan.

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The company describes itself as 'a grassroots organisation focussing on the consequences for nature and climate change of land-use in South Oxfordshire'.

One of its directors is South Oxfordshire district councillor Sue Roberts, who resigned from the Green group of the ruling coalition on the council after the Local Plan was passed.

Dr Roberts said the campaign group was working to 'restore nature' to the district and had begun fundraising online.

She added: "This is all about land use at the end of the day; when it came to that awful plan being pushed through at the fateful vote we decided we would challenge it."

Oxford Mail: Sue Roberts, of Bioabundance, the company that wants to challenge South Oxfordshire’s Local Plan in courtSue Roberts, of Bioabundance, the company that wants to challenge South Oxfordshire’s Local Plan in court

Sue Roberts

A copy of a legal letter sent to SODC by Bioabundance has been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

It sets out the terms for the challenge against SODC, and also lists Robert Jenrick, the Government's Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government as an interested party.

The letter says Bioabundance believes SODC's Local Plan fails to comply with the Climate Change Act 2008 because of the amount of homes planned for the district, and because many are being built in Green Belt land.

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Ian Snowdon, a member of the council's Conservative opposition group questioned whether Dr Roberts was allowed to take part in judicial review proceedings while she was a councillor.

He also questioned if the group was allowed to ask parish councils to fund the action, as he understood several parishes had been approached about the judicial review.

There is no law against parish councils funding judicial review however, and in north Oxfordshire several parish councils have provided funding towards a separate judicial review challenge against Cherwell District Council's Local Plan.

Dr Roberts added she had been given legal advice by South Oxfordshire District Council staff which said she could take part in the legal challenge.

A spokesperson for SODC said: "South Oxfordshire District Council has received a letter notifying us of a potential judicial review of the Local Plan 2035 that was adopted in December 2020.

"We will respond to their letter, but we can’t comment further at this stage in proceedings."

Correction 25/01/21: A previous version of this article said Baldon Parish Council had been approached for funding and had published a press statement from Bioabundance on its website. This was incorrect. The council has not agreed to provide any financial support to the company. The press statement was published on the Baldons village website, which the council has no control over.