EARLIER this week, former Wallingford town councillor Lee Upcraft questioned whether district councillor Sue Roberts had the best interests of the town at heart in a bid to challenge South Oxfordshire's Local Plan. Dr Roberts replies below.

Ex-Mayor Lee Upcraft suggests treachery on my part, for backing the nature campaign group Bioabundance (Tuesday's Oxford Mail).

It is taking legal action to overturn the District Council’s Local Plan.

He thinks the plan, to build NINE new ‘Wallingfords’ in South Oxfordshire, should stay in place.

The plan is bad for you, bad for Wallingford, bad for South Oxfordshire, bad for England.

The number of houses pressed upon us by central Government is far more than can be filled.

For every four houses built, we will have three newly-empty homes.

That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But it is so.

The district plan is for 32,000 homes.

The Office for National Statistics say there will be enough people to fill only 8,000.

In a perfect world it might be nice to have four private houses (as do some of the international wealthy).

But this is not a perfect world. Nature is in collapse.

We are down to our last few insects.

Once we have lost the pollinators there will be no fruit, few vegetables…just the wind-pollinated grains; just bread to eat.

Wildlife cannot survive in the fragments of space between the roads and the concrete.

This housing adds to global heating.

Just building one house with its share of roads and infrastructure releases 100 tonnes of CO2.

Sue Roberts, of Bioabundance, the company that wants to challenge South Oxfordshires Local Plan in court

Sue Roberts, of Bioabundance, the company that wants to challenge South Oxfordshire's Local Plan in court

And we are suffering the consequences, with flood havoc from the warmer wetter air.

What a miserable start to February for my Crowmarsh friend: water bubbling up through her floorboards from the bloated Thames, and the sewage pumping station overwhelmed.

She has lost furniture and possessions, and been evacuated along with her 90-year old neighbour.

What has changed? For 40 years the house stays dry and then it starts flooding: 6 years ago, and now.

Is it to do with water displaced from nearby new developments?

As the river rises, it fills up all the spaces in the soil, as ‘groundwater’; it is as if you were on a platform bolted to the bottom of a rising pond.

New unneeded housing with its concrete foundations push the groundwater elsewhere; like into my friend’s flat.

Lee Upcraft worries that Wallingford’s excellent Neighbourhood Plan might be overturned along with the catastrophic district plan. Not so.

According to National Guidance, Wallingford’s plan will stand firm, once it has passed at referendum, regardless of the district plan.

And with it, extra money for Wallingford will come through. Wallingford needs this money.

But it has been put at risk by the delay in our plan’s referendum, caused by Covid.

Lee and I have worked together to try to protect that money.

Lee makes two further errors. He believes district has the power to ‘review’ its plan. If only!

It has been made quite clear to us that it cannot be changed.

His other error is a common misconception peddled by developers. He thinks that without the district plan, there would be more speculative land grabs by developers. The opposite is true.

Let me explain a little-understood bit of planning law!

The district plan has an extremely high target of houses to be built each year; far higher than the default number.

We are certain to miss that target. When we do, who gets punished? Developers with their acres of spare land?

Builders who have downed tools to wait for the market to pick up? No. We are.

If they fail to build houses, developers are rewarded with yet more land to bolster up their asset sheets. What a game!

I am so proud to represent you as District Councillor.

Wallingford voted for me to fight against over-development. We were thwarted by Government.

Bioabundance’s legal action includes the Government as an ‘interested party’.

You would be most welcome to join us at bioabundance.org.uk.