Category Archives: Planning

North Of Abingdon: a Planning Committee Event

Last night (26 July 2017) at Vale planning committee meeting, those of us speaking up for residents came away mostly empty handed. Note please that it was the Lib Dem councillors and the Lib Dem MP who spoke up for residents’ concerns.

I think it was a bad decision not to insist on mitigation for the harm caused by this development.

– 950 homes plus 80 bed care home, when the Local Plan thought 800 would be appropriate.

– No requirement that the Lodge Hill slip roads be completed before houses are built or occupied (we wanted the former but would have settled for the latter)

– No 2 form school to save the money when inevitably the school must be expanded from 1.5 form.

– No CIL on this development, so parishes won’t get their 15% of CIL charges.

– Officers had nothing to say at all about the effect of a few more thousand cars on the already over-capacity A34. OCC basically said, ‘That’s not our job, and Highways England has not objected.’ If they haven’t objected, then WHO is responsible for fixing the appalling over-capacity problem in Vale on A34? We’ve heard for years that this is the main obstacle to employment challenges (companies won’t come here and recruiting is difficult with gridlock on the A34).

The mics didn’t work so we couldn’t hear a lot of what was being said. One resident went into a shouty meltdown and had to be evicted from the meeting. That’s always upsetting for everyone. One committee member was confused about the rules and stood down from the committee even though he didn’t speak for or against the application. One Tory councillor took his speaking opportunity to praise the previous MP. It would have been funny if it hadn’t affected a serious planning decision.

Small gains: a requirement for a well designed cycle link to Radley station; Radley Lakes may get a contribution – there was agreement to go back to the negotiating table for this; there’s a condition to monitor air quality at the most congested junctions (presumably those not already inside the AQMA).

Everyone, EVERYONE who spoke and voted FOR, had drunk the kool-ade and believed that this time, this THIRD time, the promise of funding for the south slips is true. OCC even committed to forward funding it. (I thought County had no money, so not so sure how that works.)

I’m disappointed that the officers promoted something against advice of our Env Protection team, and also contrary to our Local Plan.

So, we lost. Now on to the next thing: tonight’s Scrutiny meeting will look at Vale’s Corporate Plan, a Joint Housing Strategy, and a Temporary Accommodation Strategy (it’s the accommodation that’s temporary, not the strategy.)

I have a holiday coming in 31 days (according to the handy countdown timer on my iphone).

Wishing everyone well. Debby

My comments for 54 Hurst Rise Road

I’ve submitted my comments for 54 Hurst Rise Rd.

I called in this application to committee in January 2017. So now I’ve submitted the list of issues that I think need a satisfactory condition or mitigation or change to the plans. You can see the doc in my dropbox folder here:

Planning applications currently under call-in

Last summer, Vale made some changes to the way planning applications are managed.

The problem being addressed was planning committee had too many meetings, which were too long (continuing WAY too late), and which had too many small and pretty straightforward applications that they were being asked to determine. Officer time to prepare a report for committee is expensive, and councillors looked at ways to trim costs without sacrificing democratic process and opportunity to object.

The changes were, essentially:

  1. Put a 150 minute limit on planning committee meetings. They could be extended by 30 more minutes under some circumstances and via a vote by all members.
  2. Major applications automatically go to committee if the parish or town council opinion differs from the planning officer’s recommendation.
  3. Other applications must be called in to committee by the district councillors. In exceptional circumstances, one of the planning managers can call one in.

There’s a call-in deadline 28 days after an application is registered at Vale.

Here are the applications I have called in, and the call-in date, which have yet to come to Planning Committee.

  • 54 Hurst Rise Rd. 8 Jan 2017
  • land adjacent to 16 Yarnells Rd. 23 Feb 2017
  • 1 Maple Close. 10 Mar 2017
  • Red Copse Boars Hill (V0918). 1 May 2017
  • 8 Elms Road. 15 Jun 2017

If you ever have questions about a planning application, be sure to contact me well before the 28 day deadline. After that, it’s difficult to do anything constructive.



A balanced approach

So in fairness (considering earlier today I criticised his Local Plan for failing to plan for solving our most serious problems — here’s a kind thank you. 

Cllr Roger Cox, Cabinet member for Planning, was the one who approved £2500 for the cleanup of, and making secure, the vacant and derelict property 82 Westminster Way. 

Thank you Cllr Cox. Botley is appreciative. 

So do you think you might be able to help us get this house back in use? 

Vale Local Plan Pt 2 – housing people can afford

I’m working on my review of Vale’s Local Plan Pt2. Consultation closes the 4th of May, but we’ll be away so I want to get my comments in early this week. 

We’ve heard the Vale’s leading Tories repeatedly tell us lack of genuinely affordable housing and over-congested highways (esp A34) are the two main obstacles to growth in the Vale. 

At a recent Scrutiny meeting, I asked the Cabinet member for planning, Cllr Roger Cox of Faringdon, a few questions. 

The main thing I wanted to know was how his Local Plan will help ordinary working people on ordinary wages (UK average is about £27,000 per year) to have a decent home. 

Cllr Cox is the Cabinet member responsible for the Local Plan. I had to repeat my question more than once: “What does your Local Plan do to provide more housing that ordinary people can afford?” Finally his shoulders dropped and he said, “Nothing.”

Well there we are. 

Vote the Tories out. 

Local Plan consultation thru 4 May

I’m proud of my work over the past few years with some of our local parish councils, residents and other groups. We sought to protect our open spaces in the northeast area of Vale.

We’ve taken our share of housing here, and we do all we can to support appropriate development. 

Under Local Plan Part 1, we have about 1300 new houses to come in the Tilsley Park area, in land Vale removed from the Green Belt. There are other former Green Belt sites in Radley and Kennington. But we managed to save more than 20 sites that Vale Tories wanted to remove from the Green Belt, including many local playing fields. 

Now the Vale’s Local Plan 2031 Part 2 defines the sites for the rest of our housing need, plus our share of Oxford’s housing need that they aren’t able to meet for themselves. Sites over 50 houses are included; smaller sites are not. 

So there will be no further incursion into the Green Belt in the north east area through 2031. At least, that’s the proposal. 

You can read the Local Plan 2031 Part 2, and comment via this link: 

Local Plan 2031 – adoption immiment

Local Plan 2031 (Part 1):

The inspector has found that Vale’s Local Plan 2031 Part 1 is sound. On 2 Dec, Cabinet approved it to go to full council on 14 Dec 2016 for formal adoption.

Working together with community activists and some parish councils, we managed to get 22 Green Belt sites saved, but four sites are to be removed from the Green Belt and are designated strategic housing sites.

The main good news is that once this Local Plan Part 1 is adopted, we are no longer subject to the speculative development that’s been a bane to our areas since the change in administration in 2011; our development will be ‘plan led’.

Work will soon begin on Oxford Brookes University’s master plan, and we can expect our first strategic site applications to be coming through (we expect that north of Abingdon site will be soon).

Local Plan 2031 (Part 2)

A call for sites brought in (dozens of, scores of, maybe) offers from landowners who want to see their sites used for housing development over the next 15 years. The list is still confidential; I’ve tried to get sight of the potential sites in our area, but have had no joy.

The public consultation on this is expected in Feb 2017. Items of interest in Part 2 are where to meet Oxford’s unmet housing need (remember we’ve agreed to take 2200 more houses), non-strategic sites for fewer than 200 houses, and policies to replace those that have been ‘saved’ from the old Local Plan.

Is it OK for us to thank ourselves?

A Tory councillor, formerly of these parts, tabled a motion at council meeting 20 July 2016:

Council welcomes the interim findings of the Local Plan Inspector, which allows the process to move on to modifications stage ahead of final adoption. Council thanks the officers and councillors involved in directing the Local Plan process for their hard work, professionalism and perseverance and looks forward to the successful adoption of the Local Plan Part 1 in due course.

My first thought? Well, here’s another of those Tory self-congratulatory motions telling the world what a good job they think they’ve done. But it was residents, parish councils and community groups who fought the Tories the whole way to save some of the Green Belt and AONB.

So we (Lib Dems) proposed an amendment:

Council welcomes the interim findings of the Local Plan Inspector, which allows the process to move on to modifications stage ahead of final adoption. Council thanks the officers, and councillors, parish councils, residents and community groups involved in directing the Local Plan process for their hard work, professionalism and perseverance and looks forward to the successful adoption of the Local Plan Part 1 in due course. 

I had an email from Cllr Sandy Lovatt, who said he’d like to see ‘councillors’ come out, as self-congratulatory motions aren’t the done thing. I agreed, as that was totally my first thought.

In the debate, I said:

  • The original motion thanks ‘councillors’  I think self-congratulatory motions are bad form, so I support removing that word.
  • Thousands of members of the public engaged in the Locl Plan process, and dozens of parish councils and community organisations did too. This was the biggest Examination anyone had ever seen. It is due to the engagement of everyone that the plan is now likely to be found sound, and that much of the Green Belt and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is preserved.

To be honest, I don’t remember whether ‘councillors’ stayed in was was taken out. I pronounced this a silly thing to be spending time debating, and said I would support it either way.

Motion, as amended, passed.

Site 2 – land north of Abingdon

The land for this development is mostly (or completely) in Sunningwell parish, which I represent. Around 900 houses are planned.

On Saturday 16th July, I attended the first of the public exhibitions hosted by the master planners, CEG. They won’t actually be building the houses. They plan the community and infrastructure and also develop a Design Code, which provides for the eventual developers the quality parameters for the developments in this community.

You can see the exhibition online at

I filled in a feedback form:

image image


Motion for more open and transparent consultations.

Lib Dems tabled this motion at council 20 July 2016.

I said this:

  • At the Local Plan examination, Inspector allowed a resident a seat at the table specifically because his consultation response had been lost.
  • The Housing Delivery Update Consultation has has many problems identified, For example, in the village of Radley, there were 550 letters of protest et they were counted as one objection, Consequently, the report state that there were 40 comments received concerning north Radley, rather than 590, and 45 concerning NW Radley rather than 595.
  • Something went wrong with the Abbey Meadow consultation.The public thought they were promised one thing, and the council thought it was something else.
  • In the consultation for the controversial Botley SPD, two responses were completely missed out: the response from Savilles (the developers agent); and the response from a consultant for West Way Concern, who pointed out questions of lawfulness that were later cause for the three month delay to reassess.
  • The LEP SEP refresh, as council just heard from Julie Mabberly and Annie Thomas.(Speakers from the public on the night.)

Debate included some heartfelt expressions of dismay from Tories about how much they hated to see young officers cut down when they try so hard. No one blames inexperienced officers. It’s the strategic decision makers who are responsible for these failures; the most inexperienced staff, or indeed temporary staff, are charged with logging consultation responses. I think no one senior ever reads them! Had any senior officer or member read the consultation response about serious questions of lawfulness, legal expenses incurred by the pubic and the council could have been avoided.

This motion passed.

From the new list of Cabinet members responsibilities, I can’t tell where consultations lie; it isn’t included in the Leader’s delegation list (which says a lot). I’ll see if I can find out.

Trying hard isn’t the most important thing here. It’s the senior managers and Cabinet members who must ensure the right level of staff are on the right jobs. If we are legally held to account for our decisions, it isn’t trying hard that’s the most important thing, but being effective and making the right decisions. This is a recurring theme of the Tories, that trying hard should be enough.

——— Original post follows…

Vale Lib Dems have tabled a motion to do more to hold fair, open and transparent consultations. Full council meeting 20 July is open to the public.

“This council resolves to manage our public consultations with openness and transparency, using industry best practice. Our public consultations will use open-ended questions that encourage a range of responses, and officers will produce consultation reports that highlight all major concerns raised and the actions to be taken in response. Where we have control of the consultation, we will ensure openness and transparency. Where we are part of a governing body managing the consultation, we will openly encourage openness and transparency.”