Former Wallingford town councillor and mayor Lee Upcraft shares his thoughts on attempts to take South Oxfordshire District Council's Local Plan to judicial review.

A LEGAL appeal on the South Oxfordshire District Council Local Plan risks disaster for Wallingford and our own District Councillor really should know better.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and I genuinely fear that a local campaign group’s efforts to overturn the South Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan risks significant harm to Wallingford. That this campaign group is led by one of Wallingford’s two District Councillors is deeply concerning.

I personally admire Sue Roberts long term commitment to improving the environment for all – her goals have always been clear and nobody should be surprised if her principles lead her down this track. However if she succeeds in overturning the Local Plan – possibly for the benefit of South Oxfordshire, she will do considerable harm to Wallingford, a very strange position for one elected to represent us.

This is not a post about the merits or otherwise of the SODC Local Plan – after a long fight, for right or wrong, we have a Plan which dictates where major housing growth will take place in the district over the next 15 years. Nor am I here to squabble over the numbers or give a NIMBY’s defence. Housing is needed and Wallingford will welcome residents to around 1,400 new homes under planning permissions already granted.

I have spent considerable time working with the volunteers who have spent five long years putting together Wallingford’s Neighbourhood Plan. I have helped steer them towards the final stages of getting it accepted as a legally recognised document which lets Wallingford have meaningful influence on what development takes place in Wallingford. In the process I have listened and learned from planning officers, inspectors and developers.

The Local Plan confirms that no further, large scale housing developments are needed in Wallingford. We have been asked to provide 1,070 homes and the major allocations give more than 1,400 up to 2025. With both the Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plans in place, Wallingford is protected from further large scale development. Small scale redevelopment on brown-field sites will give a steady trickle of smaller homes.

In the last stages of developing the Neighbourhood Plan, developers with interests in sites for a total of another 1,000 homes lobbied to have their areas designated. During the public hearings for the Local Plan, these same developers fought hard to have their sites designated as reserve sites. The developers of Site D for 350 homes only withdrew their appeal against refusal of permission because they knew the Local Plan gave them no leeway.

Wallingford Marketplace. Picture: Jon Lewis

Wallingford Marketplace. Picture: Jon Lewis

If there is no Local Plan in place, SODC have no significant grounds in terms of planning policy to refuse planning applications for development on these new sites.

Without a Local Plan, the Neighbourhood Plan is moot, scrapped and worthless.

If the Local Plan is overturned, Wallingford will face applications for another 1,000 homes on our outskirts. And because the developers will not have to sweeten the pill, they’ll have little incentive to make a real contribution towards local infrastructure.

If Wallingford has its Neighbourhood Plan adopted, the town council will receive 25 per cent of the Community Infrastructure Levy which most new developments will pay. Without it, the Town will receive only 15 per cent. It’s actually worse than that because in the 15 per cent case, there is also a cap based on the number of existing homes.

We all want to see new play facilities in the Bull Croft, our Town Hall restored and enhanced, something new for the Regal, improvements to the market place – the list is long and the town’s resources limited. The CIL money will unlock grant funding, all of this will be made so very much harder if the challenge to the Local Plan succeeds.

Without the Neighbourhood Plan in place, the town stands to loose half a million pounds from one site alone. The cumulative loss from future smaller developments across town will further hurt our ability to leverage other sources of funding to improve our facilities.

For the sake of Wallingford I deplore this challenge to the Local Plan and hope it fails. It is of course the right of those who feel otherwise to challenge it, but for a Wallingford councillor to be leading the charge when it is so obviously not in the town’s interest is a shocking conflict of interest.

If Sue Roberts genuinely believes this challenge is in the best interests of South Oxfordshire she needs to consider her position as a District Councillor for Wallingford because it is manifestly not in the interests of her constituents.

• This opinion piece has been abridged from the full version available at

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