Please find a report on District Council matters.
There is an application to the High Court for a Judicial Review of the Planning Inspectorate’s amendment of WODC’s Area Action Plan for Salt Cross. We have heard no more about its progress. Until we get an update, things appear to be stalled.
The amendments to the developers’ masterplan were rejected by WODC Executive (which includes Carl and Dan) in July, on the grounds that the additional proposed sites were not accessible other than via the ‘old’ village.
The unamended masterplan therefore remains in place and we expect planning applications in line with it. This includes a spine road leading from the A40 to the Stanton Harcourt Road to the south of Eynsham, from which all motor vehicle access to the new development will be made. People on foot or bike will be able to get between West Eynsham and Eynsham directly.
The first occupancy of the Thomas Homes Old Nursery site has happened. For now, residents can access their homes via Old Witney Road, but this will cease once an alternative route through the other West Eynsham development becomes available. Construction traffic may only use the A40 entrance.
The current West Oxfordshire Local Plan will be replaced by a new one, which is being developed at the moment. A public consultation has just opened and we are looking for as many people, organisations and companies to respond as possible. The consultation runs to the end of October.
There are areas that were not covered in the current Local Plan that ought to be, including obligations to build zero-carbon developments and commitments to agriculture and on sympathetic location of solar panels. As ever, a key consideration will probably be where new housing is located.
The consultation is structured to elicit views under three main headings:
Draft local plan objectives – a series of draft objectives intended to guide the future evolution of the plan in terms of its overall approach and anticipated policy content;
The future pattern of development in West Oxfordshire – different scenarios for how and where we might look to focus future growth in the period up to 2041;
Call for sites, ideas and opportunities – an open invitation for stakeholders to put forward their thoughts on how land in the District might be used in the future, such as new housing, employment, infrastructure, community use, green space, nature recovery and renewable energy.
The feedback received will then be used to inform a series of preferred policy approaches; these will be the subject of further consultation in due course. To ensure the responses we receive are able to be easily analysed, we are encouraging all stakeholders to respond using our online digital platform: https://yourvoice.westoxon.gov.uk/en-GB/
The Local Plan is the key document which determines almost all WODC policy and informs planning applications. It is a crucial piece of work and we really do want as much public input as possible.
As you may have noticed, Thames Water has been in the news a lot. They continue to deliver inadequate performance in sewage treatment. The swimming water status site in Wolvercote has been again singled out for its bacterial overload. It is just downstream from the Cassington Sewage Treatment works. However, Thames Water do at least recognise the problem here, and at WODC’s persuasion insist on a Grampian condition in all housing developments – this means that houses cannot be occupied until the sewage plans can cope with the additional waste.
We have also had a spate of freshwater pipe bursts, including the South Leigh Geyser. And to cap it all, after shutting Back Lane in Eynsham for a number of weeks to fix the collapsing sewer without digging the street up, Thames Water have admitted defeat, in part because their map of their sewage network is incorrect and incomplete. They re-opened the road, then shut it again when they found a new leak in the car park. They will have to come back and do a more extensive and disruptive bit of work in the near future.
After a lot of discussion with officers and an Executive member of WODC, the Environment Agency (EA) has acknowledged that its flood map can be inaccurate. WODC lost a planning appeal in Ducklington largely on the grounds that a refusal on the basis that the development was liable to flood wasn’t supported by the EA mapping. EA have now agreed that in this case they were wrong, and that this may be true elsewhere.
WODC has put out a statement setting out the new EA position. There are huge constraints on the powers of a planning authority like WODC, but we are pushing as hard as we can to ensure that decisions are justifiable.
The process for setting the budget for the year 2024-25 has begun. There is, of course, insufficient income and as yet no certainty as to what the Government will give by way of grants. Inflationary pressures are high, especially in areas like refuse collection.
There will be a number of consultations. The first is on the proposed relief scheme for lower income residents and is open now. All consultations can be found online on the WODC Consultations and Engagement page.