VALE OF WHITE HORSE LOCAL PLAN 2031
The Local Plan Part 1
Part 1 of the Local Plan was presented by the Vale of White Horse District Council to the Secretary of State for independent examination in March 2015. It sets out strategic planning policies for the Vale district, argues that 20,560 new homes are required in the area by 2031 and identifies 21 ‘strategic’ housing sites, each planned to provide for a minimum of 200 new homes. The full plan can found at http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/services-and-advice/planning-and-building/planning-policy/new-local-plan-2031.
Examination in Public
Planning Inspector Malcolm Rivett was appointed to examine the plan in public. His job is to consider whether it is ‘positively prepared’, ‘justified’, ‘effective’ and ‘consistent with national policy’. He has held public hearings in two stages, the first dealing with strategic issues and overall housing numbers and the second with specific development sites and Green Belt issues. The Stage 1 hearings were in October 2015 and the Stage 2 hearings in February 2016.
The Parish Council submitted views on the stage 1 questions and was represented by Chris Henderson at the stage 1 hearings in September 2015. The Parish Council also submitted written evidence for the Stage 2 hearings on Matter 5 (Green Belt), Matter 7 (infrastructure) and Matter 8 (the housing strategic sites) and was represented at the hearings by Priscilla Dudding.
The Inspector appeared to accept some of the points we raised at both sessions and clearly had some concerns about aspects of the Vale’s Plan. He is expected to require some modifications to it. He is expected to publish ‘interim conclusions’ in June 2016, which will give an indication of how far he is content to accept key elements of the Plan. There is likely to be another round of consultation on major modifications. The Local Plan may be finalised by the end of 2016.
The Local Plan Part 2
Published work on Part 2 of the Local Plan is likely to start once Part 1 is confirmed. This will contain detailed planning policies to guide day-to-day planning decisions and will “identify and allocate supplementary and predominantly smaller (referred to as non-strategic) development sites” for housing. These will provide for a further 1000 new homes, 722 of which are planned to be in the Abingdon and Oxford fringe area, of which Radley forms part.
We understand that, alongside its work to identify Part 2 sites, the Vale will also be working to identify sites to meet Oxford City’s unmet needs. This is likely to involve a very substantial commitment to extra housing in the Vale (see below).
What the plan means for Radley
3 of the 21 ‘strategic’ housing sites in Part 1 of the Local Plan are within Radley parish boundaries, and provide for 900 proposed new homes. They are:
North West Radley – east of White’s Lane: 240 homes
South Kennington – south of Sandford Lane 270 homes
North of Abingdon Around 800 homes
The area bounded in red to the east of the A4183 Oxford Road is within the parish of Radley, and may account for 390 of the proposed 800 new homes in the combined North Abingdon site shown on the map.
In addition, a site to the south of the village hall and north of Gooseacre farm buildings (shown as 14 in the map below) has been identified by the Vale as suitable for release from the Green Belt, and as a possible site for Part 2 allocations. This has been put forward by the landowners as capable of accommodating 250 new homes.
Earlier versions of the Local Plan 2031
In addition to the North West Radley and South Kennington sites identified above, an earlier version of the plan published in February 2014 included proposals to develop 200 new homes on a site north of Church Road.
North Radley formerly proposed for 200 homes
As a result of strong local opposition orchestrated by the Save Radley Village campaign and backed by the Parish Council, these proposals were dropped. However, the North Abingdon site was at this point extended to the east of the A4138 Oxford Road into Radley parish, and the numbers for the site increased from 410 to 800.
The Vale has produced an Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) identifying the infrastructure necessary to support the delivery of the Local Plan. This includes tables showing what infrastructure improvements are proposed in relation to each of the housing strategic sites, and what developer contributions will be sought to finance them (including, for example, £778k from the North West Radley site to cover the cost of expanding Radley primary school from half to full year entry). The proposals are described as ‘a starting point for discussing infrastructure requirements’ and the basis for ‘the Regulation 123 list, which will set out the Council’s spending priorities for the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)’. Given that responsibility for infrastructure provision falls largely to bodies other than the Vale (notably the county council and Thames Water), and that a percentage of CIL receipts accruing to the Vale will need to be passed to the parish council, the Vale’s proposals are likely to be the subject of considerable discussion and change.
As part of the Local Plan 2031 process, the Vale considered possible changes to the Green Belt falling within its boundaries. While a large number of changes are envisaged, there is no single document setting out clearly what these are. The base documents are the Kirkham Review, Parts 1&2 and Part 3 reports . Associated with these is a Vale document commenting on the suitability of the sites identified for development.
Land to the north of Abingdon ring road and east of the Oxford road was not identified as suitable for removal from the Green Belt in the Kirkham review. It was added to the Local Plan as a development site in Autumn 2014 following a Landscape and Feasibility Study undertaken by Hankinson Duckett Associates.
The Vale produced a list of sites envisaged for removal from the Green Belt in response to a request from the Inspector. In addition to the strategic housing sites identified in the Plan, they include a site off Thrupp Lane south of the playing fields and village hall, as noted in considering Radley sites, above.
The Oxford Green Belt Study, prepared by LUC for the combined Oxfordshire local authorities, was published in November 2015. It is a thorough assessment of sub-areas within the existing Oxford Green Belt against the 5 green belt purposes, as set out in national guidance. The sub-areas within Radley parish all feature strongly against one or more of the purposes, but so too do most of the other green belt sub-areas. We wait to hear what conclusions the Oxfordshire local authorities will draw from this study.
Meeting Oxford City’s unmet housing needs
District Councils are required by law to make planning provision to accommodate the housing needs of neighbouring authorities who have insufficient suitable land available to meet their own needs. Oxford City is looking to its four neighbouring districts for support under this requirement.
The Vale has so far made no provision to meet Oxford’s unmet needs in its overall estimates of the numbers of dwellings required to be accommodated through the Local Plan. A paper considered by the Vale Cabinet suggested that there could be a requirement for an additional 3000 homes in the Vale district under this requirement, and that most of these would need to be located in the Abingdon and Oxford fringe area. The Parish Council is deeply concerned by these proposals, which are for development over and above the major development already envisaged in the Local Plan. Our views were set out in a statement to the Cabinet for its meeting on 7 August 2015.