Saturday, 14 December 2019

Greens urge minister to return plan power

GREENS have urged the Government to give back South Oxfordshire District Council power over its local plan.

They called Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick’s intervention “draconian and anti-democratic”.

He took control of the process last month when the council, which is run by a Green and Liberal Democract coalition, threatened to scrap the plan, which was agreed by the former Conservative administration that lost power in May.

This threatened the loss of tens of millions of pounds that the Government has agreed to give Oxfordshire councils to pay for infrastructure improvements that will be needed with new housing developments.

The Greens’ letter reads: “Residents and environmental groups across the district have expressed their deep concern over South Oxfordshire’s draft local plan, which has suffered from a democratic deficit throughout its many iterations.

“The Government’s vision for an Oxfordshire covered in concrete and blighted by traffic and unneeded homes is an affront to the wishes of local residents and neglects the vital need to address the climate crisis.

“The decision on what to do next on South Oxfordshire’s plan should be for that district’s elected local representatives. That’s how democracy works.

“We Greens are proud to stand up for residents’ concerns about over-development and will continue to strive for a greener, fairer and more representative Oxfordshire for all residents.

“Whatever your view on this particular local plan, the decision-making powers over it should be returned to South Oxfordshire’s elected local representatives immediately.”

A motion to scrap the plan was due to be ratified at a council meeting on October 10 but Mr Jenrick wrote to the council the day before, saying the Government had taken control of the matter.

He said this was because of concerns about the potential for speculative developments.

Ministers had already criticised suggestions that the plan could be modified or withdrawn, risking the loss of more than £200 million worth of funding.

The temporary direction issued by Mr Jenrick means councillors and officers cannot progress decision making in relation to the plan.

The minority Conservative councillors have urged adoption of the local plan.

They said: “If you’re not lucky enough to live in the green belt or in the area of outstanding natural beauty, then be afraid, very afraid.

“Without a plan in place, the council will be powerless to stop [speculators].”

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