(I’ve edited this post after the Cabinet meeting, to include an update.)
About 25 people came to the Vale Cabinet meeting Friday morning (7th Aug 15). The agenda item was the report from head of planning about options for high level approaches to Vale’s commitment to duty to cooperate to meet Oxford’s unmet housing need.
Six spoke: CPRE, SPADE, Sunningwell PC, Radley PC, keep Cumnor Green, and I.
Cllrs Barber and Murray gamely tried to answer questions from an obviously opposed audience. I got that they were trying to reassure people that no decisions were going to be taken and this was the beginning of consultation on the subject. I also got that they see the BIG opposition to Green Belt development. (But I think they’re going to go for it anyway.)
You can find the report within the agenda on the Vale’s website here: http://democratic.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=507&MId=1980&Ver=4 Scroll down to item 6. Once the minutes are published, you can see what everyone had to say to Cabinet.
Here’s what I had to say:
Vale’s report specifically refers to a ‘proven’ need for more housing than Oxford can accommodate.
Although I understand that Oxford isn’t being seen to be doing enough to help itself, as far as I’m aware there isn’t any legal provision for determining if any declared need is ‘proven’ or not. When the Oxfordshire Growth Board’s process for handling disagreement reaches its effective limit, the issue is dropped into a filing cabinet and nothing further is done. I would encourage the Growth Board to re-address this problem amongst yourselves. Personally, I expect Oxford will do little more that it has already done, and their neighbours will have to provide. It puts to question the meaning of ‘cooperation’.
I, and my Lib Dem group, remain opposed to piecemeal removal of bits of the Green Belt for housing development. We still seek a proper, independent and public Green Belt review, where the questions asked are honestly answered. There’s no sign of that forthcoming.
How can the various districts begin to consider options to meet Oxford’s unmet housing need before we have a completed Green Belt review, particularly, as in the case of the Vale, where Green Belt land is being considered as an option to meet the unmet need?
Once the number of extra houses neighbouring districts must build is ultimately agreed, then what? Where would the houses best be placed? To divide them equally between the four neighbouring districts seems amateurish, unfair, and ineffective. I’ve been reading that City’s housing need is greatest near their employment sites, on the eastern side of the city. That should be a consideration in deciding how best neighbouring districts can together meet the need. Consideration of proximity to jobs and provision of transport is relevant. If we build somewhere other than on the eastern edge of the city, then Oxford needs a modern and effective transport system to get people from home to work, not a old system (even an expanded OLD system) that continues to rely on the over capacity A34 and local roads.
And finally, housing need is explicitly not an exceptional circumstance that would allow for developing the green belt. If we needed green belt land in order to meet SHMA figures, then that fact should have been considered as a constraint when determining Vale’s housing targets for the Local Plan. What evidence has Vale produced to support the case for exceptional circumstances that would support development on the Green Belt?
The Oxford Times covered the story: http://m.oxfordtimes.co.uk/news/13582632.Applause_as_Vale_council_are_warned_not_to_destroy_villages_for_new_Oxford_homes/