Category Archives: Local Issues

OxLEP’s SEP refresh consultation

Say what??!

The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) plans to ‘refresh’ their Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) and hold a public consultation. Here’s my note about it all:

OxLEP is a quango whose purpose is to promote economic growth in Oxfordshire. Their premise is that “Growth is Good”. They essentially bid for big money from government to support large infrastructure projects in Oxforshire.

See more about them here:

OxLEP are not democratically elected; they were formed by Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Their strategy doc is the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), published in 2014. They state in their FAQs doc for this upcoming consultation that they did not consult the public before publishing the original SEP, because they ran out of time.

(There is a saying making the rounds on Facebook this week: Instead of saying ” I don’t have time” try saying ” It isn’t a priority for me”. How does that feel?)

They are ‘refreshing’ the SEP, and holding a public consultation. See their SEP refresh FAQs doc here:

The SEP is the source of the anticipated jobs growth figures that underlie the astronomical housing figures in the SHMA. I think the jobs growth figures are unevidenced (that’s what I’ve been told, and I haven’t seen any evidence myself.) LEP claims the housing figures are nothing to do with them, but come from SHMA. That’s disingenuous, because the housing need figures are based on the SEPs jobs growth figures. All of this has led to the local plans to grow Oxfordshire such that the equivalent of two new Oxfords must be built in the next 15 years. Local authorities’ plans to permanently remove large swathes of the Green Belt land from protection are based on SEPs jobs figures which are based on something the public has never even seen.

This SEP is being ‘refreshed’. And they will hold a public consultation on the refresh between mid-April and Mid-May. But the refresh doesn’t visit all of the SEP contents, so this is a consultation on a part of the SEP. They will not be revisiting their numbers, as I understand it. So the figures that led to the SHMA figures will remain as they are without any pubic consultation.

There is a steering group listed in the FAQs doc for this consultation. All district councils are included, except Vale of White Horse. I think this is an error, and that since Anna Robinson sits on that group, and she works for both SODC and VWHDC, that Vale IS represented. I’ve just today asked OxLEP for clarification on this. I also have a provisional meeting with Anna Robinson next week about this consultation.

Within the FAQs doc, notice the schedule for the consultation, and particularly the time allowed after the consultation for results analysis and consideration of how the consultation will inform any changed to the SEP. There are three working days between the end of consultation and first draft publication of the consultation report. Three days. That gives a pretty clear view of how seriously they take their responsibility to consult. Looks like a box ticking exercise to me. As usual, I’d like to be proved wrong about this.

I am encouraging Lib Dems throughout Oxfordshire to promote openness and transparency in this consultation. The bigger aim is to do what we can to ensure OxLEP fairly represents Oxfordshire’s needs for future growth.

Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. The public deserves a meaningful say in growth targets for Oxfordshire; they’ve had none so far, and this consultation doesn’t include the growth figures.
  2. As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, there has never been a debate about LEP’s SEP in any Local Authority Council or Cabinet.
  3. In addition to economic growth, there are also social and environmental considerations that lie at the heart of decision making about sustainable growth. How are these consideration being included?
  4. We think a growth strategy should have a full (and meaningful) public consultation.
  5. We think a growth strategy should have an Strategic Environmental Assessment.
  6. We think the SEP consultation should include access to the evidence base supporting the SEP’s strategy.
  7. How can SEP be evaluated without knowing what infrastructure is required and whether it’s deliverable?
  8. At their workshops recently, their questions were closed-end or leading. We think well-formed open-ended questions provide space for any sort of disagreement with the basic principles they’ve adopted. Example questions from one workshop:
    1. Does Oxfordshire have world-leading connectivity?
    2. What kinds of connectivity are most important in seeking to achieve the outcomes linked to SEP’s vision (ie vibrancy, sustainability, inclusivity, world-leading)?

I know the public who are aware of this care about it. A lot. I intend to do what I can to ensure the consultation is meaningful. Too often, there are no significant changes that come from public responses, even when the public response is serious, fundamental, and evidence-based. I’m hoping we can have a positive impact on that and that things will get better.


Dog poo – where do you put it?

dog poo bagsDog poo can go in your normal grey rubbish bin. This is the main reason councils aren’t replacing or installing new dog poo bins in public places.

Please pick up your dog’a poo in a plastic bag, tie it and pop it into either a public rubbish bin, or take it home to put in your own bin. 

The walkers and park users thank you.


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

Sunday Trading Laws – Consultation through 10 Sep 2015

Government are considering changes to the Sunday trading laws, to allow larger shops to stay open longer on Sunday.

For details on the changes being considered, and how to submit your views, see the Vale’s website:

This consultation is open now, and closes 10 Sept 2015.

Being on Planning Committee vs well, not

Someone recently asked me why I wasn’t representing the community by sitting on the Vale Planning Committee. The question revealed a lack of understanding about both the responsibility of a member of Planning Committee, and what it means to represent a community. A councillor cannot represent their community whilst wearing their planning committee member hat.

Responsibilities of a planning committee member:

A member of planning committee is expected to remain open minded on any planning application until the last minute, and to not actively support or oppose an application. Whilst sitting as a member of the planning committee, members are not representing their communities; they are interpreting planning policy and law for each individual application.

Representing my community:

I listen to what members of the community think about an application, and consider whether I can find any policy that supports the community view. (This is usually a view opposed to the application.) If I can find such a policy, then I can actively work to get planning officers to consider our views, try to get applicants to amend their plans to accommodate local concerns, and use my powers of persuasion to lobby planning committee members. This freedom to speak out and actively work to influence decision making is exactly why I didn’t choose to serve on Planning Committee.

So far, in all that I’ve seen in the years since I was first elected, I’ve done a pretty good job at ‘representing my community’ by NOT being on planning committee.



Emily Smith, Vale candidate on 7 May

Debby says: I was elected in 2011, as one member in a two member ward. Since then, it’s felt like I was the only one working on behalf of this community. The other councillor was a Tory and so pro-Doric that he accompanied them on their radio spots; he had to recuse himself from the planning committee decision for this bias. Awhile back, he moved to the safe Tory seat of Southmoor. I welcome Emily as a candidate who has a track record of working for this community, and she will be great as a colleague! I invited her to provide an introduction.

Emily says: Few people in our ward are unaware of Cllr Debby Hallett’s efforts to defeat Doric and hold the Conservative controlled Vale to account. Debby is pro-active, hardworking and cares deeply about our community. But Botley & Sunningwell is a two member ward, so on 7th May you get two votes in the District Council elections. I have decided to stand alongside Debby to help build on the work she has done so far and to help bring the Vale back into Liberal Democrat control.

A bit about me

EmilyI live in Botley with my husband and two young sons. I grew up in Sunningwell, where my parents still live, and went to school in Abingdon. After studying Sociology at University I worked at Oxfam then for a large project providing volunteer mentors to support vulnerable adults and young people. I am now employed by the County Council, coordinating activities to reduce youth unemployment across Oxfordshire.

I’ve volunteered for North Hinksey Youth Club, West Way Community Concern and I led the popular Campaign for Botley Skate Park. In 2013 I helped run a public meeting about how Neighbourhood Plans can benefit local communities and was elected to North Hinksey Parish Council in a by-election in 2014.

Why I am standing to be a District Councillor

Liberal Democrats have a reputation for making excellent local councillors and constituency MPs. I have been campaigning with fellow Lib Dems against inappropriate planning applications, to protect our Green Belt, and for better recreation facilities for our young people. As a District Councillor I would continue pushing for these things and any other community needs that arise, but I would have more power to make a difference.

I am particularly interested in improving consultation and communication with residents and ensuring the needs of vulnerable groups are considered in decision making. I would continue supporting communities to create Neighbourhood Plans, advocate for socially and environmentally sustainable development, and would explore new ways for the Vale to support youth services and recreation facilities.

And finally, why I support Parliamentary Candidate Layla Moran…

…because she supports our whole community. When Doric and the Tories at the Vale tried to impose the ridiculous West Way development on us, Layla was with us from the very start – going door to door in the pouring rain getting petition signatures 18 months before our Tory MP had said a word on the matter. Layla is a community campaigner and an excellent communicator. Her passion for education and commitment to policy based on scientific evidence, not populist whim, appeals to me as a parent, a public sector worker and a Liberal Democrat.

Team - Sunningwell Village Green (2) smaller

Layla Moran, Emily Smith, Debby Hallett

I have got to know Layla very well over the past two years and know she will be a fantastic MP who will work with District Councillors to push for the flooding defences, sustainable transport, quality apprenticeships and the planning reform that we need here in Botley and Sunningwell.

Please vote SMITH, HALLETT and MORAN on May 7th. You can contact me at or on twitter @emilysmithLD.

Litter along the A34

In early Feb, it must’ve been, I was driving northbound on the A34 from Abingdon toward Botley, and noticed an amazing amount of litter along the roadside. Over the next few days, I decided it looked like a recycling lorry had driven that way with their back doors agape, strewing the plastic mess all over the road.

I went to the USA for three weeks, and visited Nevada, Arizona, California and Utah. The highways were pristine.

I got back home to the littered A34 and felt really angry and actually embarrassed that this is the first view many visitors to the country get of our part of the world. The next day I heard a heated discussion on Radio Oxford and learned I wasn’t the only one upset by this.

Now it’s been over two months since I first noticed the mess, and still nothing has been done.

Last night I spoke to the Cabinet member responsible for road cleansing and recycling. He’s a nice chap, and he tried to assure me. ‘It’s in hand.’ I asked (a few times) when it would be cleaned up, and he smiled kindly and said, ‘It’s in hand.’ So I asked again. We did this dance for a few minutes. At last, he offered to speak to the head of service and come back to me about when it would be cleaned up.

Hooray. I await notification. Do let me know if you notice anything, won’t you?


Printed (hosted) by Hostgator, 11251 Northwest Freeway, Suite 400, Houston, TX, 77092, USA. Published and promoted by N Fawcett on behalf of Debby Hallett (Liberal Democrats), both at 27 Park End Street, Oxford, OX1 1HU, UK.

The night the car park lights went out in Botley

A resident contacted me to say all the lights had gone out in the car park behind Tesco. I determined to investigate and sort this out.

That car park, behind Tesco, SS Peter and Paul Church, and Barclays, off Church Way, is dark, dark, dark. It’s only lighting is overspill from street lighting, plus two spotlights on the side of West Way House (the tower over Tesco). West Way House is empty, and the owners are under no obligation to keep the lights on. So they’ve gone out, and the car park is dangerously dark.

First I contacted the management company for West Way (the shopping centre). they told me it didn’t have to do with them, but with West Way House.

I contacted the Vale Car Parks Team. They told me it didn’t have to do with them, but with the property team.

I contacted the Vale Property Officer, and pointed out that the Vale are probably at risk if something happens in the unsafe DARK car park. He agreed and said he’d seek a solution.

Happy are we that the management company of West Way House agreed to put the lights back on! This was last week some time, so the after dark experience there should be a lot better now. Or soon.

I notice Vale Tories have put some money into the budget next year for improvements in car park lighting. I hope it gets as far as Botley.


Headington Farmers’ Market vs Doric

Headington Farmers’s Market got sick and tired of Doric Properties using them to further their own private interests. HFM told Doric to stop.

Doric had a reply.

You can see the exchange here: Scroll down the page to the entry for 12 July.

I think you should be able to see this page even if you aren’t a registered Facebook user. I know such people can see my page. You just can’t leave a comment if you aren’t. If you find you cannot see this page, leave a comment here and I’ll help.

Campaign to protect Oxford Greenbelt

2014 cumnor cricket siteI’ve been helping the local Lib Dems get support in Cumnor, Botley, Sunningwell and South Hinksey for their campaign to get the Vale adminstration to look again at the proposed plans to build piecemeal on the Oxford Green Belt.

Residents have been so supportive, signing on the doorstep when we call, or via our online petition. A big Thank You to everyone who has signed our petition so far.

If you haven’t signed already, please sign the petition to help protect the Green Belt. You can do it online here:

PS. Did you know they plan to build 200 houses in the Green Belt land behind the Cumnor cricket gounds? (Right behind us in the photo above.) Did you know the Vale’s consultants recommend removing the Fogwell Road Pavilion Grounds and the Louie Memorial Pavilion and all the upper playing fields from the Green Belt protection?

I was astonished to learn that. I signed the petition. I’ll let you know when we are going to present it to the Vale. Maybe you’ll want to come along.