The Problem with the Tory Local Plan 2031

IMG_1562Vale Tory logic about their Local Plan 2031 just doesn’t hold up to careful scrutiny.

Check this out.

The SHMA figures (Strategic Housing Market Assessment) for required housing over the next 15 years are high. They were established by local businesses based on their projected growth. Companies always optimistically project their own growth. Many people and organisations think the SHMA figures are unrealistically high.

SHMA housing figures were explicitly intended to be the baseline. Local authorities were expected to apply relevant local constraints to come up with a realistic housing target.

Vale Tories have repeatedly said there were no constraints in the Vale, so the SHMA figures had to be accepted as the real, objectively assessed need for new housing development.

Vale Tories propose to build thousands , okay, several hundreds of new homes in the Oxford Green Belt. (Whether they build in the Green Belt, or redefine the boundaries of the Green Belt so as to have access to that land for development, it’s the same thing.) Tories believe the only way they can meet the housing targets is to build in the Green Belt.

Isn’t that the very definition of the word ‘constraint’? If we do not have enough land to build the required number of houses without Green Belt land, then that is a constraint, and the target number of houses in the Local Plan should have been reduced.

I asked about this specifically, at the Vale Scrutiny Committee in 2014, when we looked closely at the most controversial areas of the Local Plan. No one would answer this question.

Vale Tories and their Vale officers repeated, over and over, that there are no constraints in the Vale, so we are forced to accept SHMA figures as targets.

Ridiculous. Illogical. Ruinous to our open spaces.

2014 cumnor cricket site

Emily Smith, Judy Roberts, Layla Moran, Dudley Hoddinott, Debby Hallett. In the Green Belt, Cumnor

Green Belt legislation explicitly says lack of housing land supply is not enough of an exceptional circumstance to allow development in the Green Belt.

A few months ago, Eric Pickles published some new government guidance about this.

Here’s the bottom line (from the article in link above):

A Government source said: “Many council planning officers are telling their councillors that they have to remove Green Belt protection when drawing up their Local Plans, in order to meet [housing] demand.

“We are making clear that this isn’t the case, and they can take into account development restrictions – such ongoing Green Belt protection – when drawing up their Local Plans and determining how many houses they want to plan for.”


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