Botley SPD delivered too late

I have two major projects on the go (and several that are smaller). The Botley SPD (Supplementary Planning Doc) comes to the Scrutiny Cttee tonight for a close look. I’m also preparing for the Inspectors examination hearings (Stage 2) on the soundness of the Local Plan 2031 (where Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, Cllr Mike Murray, wants to build a few thousand houses in the Oxford Green Belt).

But for the SPD… One of the main purposes (if not THE main purpose) of the SPD is to make it easier for planning applications to be approved. The decision to create an SPD came about after Doric’s planning application was refused in December 2014. (That unanimous refusal was a surprise to Vale, apparently, as well as to Doric.)

So Vale hired a consultancy and asked them to begin with the failed planning application, and make this policy doc so the next application would be approved. (It wasn’t that bald of a brief, but in essence that’s what it was. Student accommodation and a multiplex cinema were never in the Vale’s plans for Botley until Doric wanted to build them and failed to get permission.)

This has been a great example of bad timing, or how not to manage a project.

The doc was begun in April 2015, so the officers excluded local members, due to ‘purdah’, they said. Then they forgot all about us and had to bring us in months later, once we moaned about it. #fail

The doc was first promised in June 2015, which might have helped the applicants. But it was delayed until October, and then legal questions sent it back for rework and a new consultation, and here we are in January. #fail.

It was delivered so late that the land sale contracts had to have the lawyers renegotiate the end date, because the delay by Planning meant the clock would tick down (there’s a drop dead date for submitting the planning application). #fail

The next planning application has been well underway for all that time, over a year, and the developers are having to wait for Planning to get this SPD into shape. The planning application and EIA are ready to be submitted at the end of Jan 2016. #fail

So how is it that this SPD, that might get adopted on 18 Jan 2016, will be any help at all in guiding the developers in the preparation of their plans? Well. it won’t be, because it’s too late. #fail

As soon as the Local Plan 2031 is adopted, maybe later in 2016, this SPD will have to be re-written and another consultation held. This will be long after the planning application is determined next month. It’s a waste of time, money and effort. #fail

Who thought this was a good idea? Who would think this was a viable plan for a strong policy document to help the developers and the community? Cllr Mike Murray, Cabinet Member for Planning Policy. #delay #rework #fail