Councils work to secure better deal for Oxfordshire
Two of Oxfordshire’s Council Leaders say they are positive about the county’s Housing and Growth Deal after Growth Board members agreed to a change in approach over the way it is progressed.
Oxfordshire Growth Board was being recommended at a meeting today to agree that the Deal and its associated Delivery Plan, which is currently being finalised in discussion with Government officials, should be approved by each of the county’s authorities. However, Vale of White Horse District Council and South Oxfordshire District Council Leaders supported an amendment seeking:
"That the Board endorses the progress made on the Housing and Growth Deal and recommends it to the Oxfordshire partners subject to the satisfactory completion of the Delivery Plan."
Full agreement of the Deal with Government can only be reached if it is approved by each of the county’s local authorities and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP). Over the next few weeks it will go to council meetings at each of the five district councils for consideration.
The Vale and South Leaders believe the amended recommendation will give more flexibility to local authorities, while ensuring that the Deal can only go ahead upon satisfactory completion of the Delivery Plan.
They warned at today’s meeting that more clarity was needed from the Government on safeguards to ensure the best outcome for the whole of Oxfordshire.
Following the meeting, both Vale and South Leaders said they were pleased their motion was accepted and commented: “Our Councils will not shy away from ambitious housing targets. We recognise the need to deliver new homes for the next generation and will continue to do so. We want to agree a deal with Government but it must provide the flexibilities we need to plan for the right homes in the right places.”
The Government announced the Deal as part of the Autumn Budget Statement 2017. It offers £215 million of Government funding over a five-year period to support Oxfordshire’s housing growth – including £150 million towards infrastructure funding.
The Deal offers the potential for further funding in the future, however Vale and South’s Leaders are concerned that the amount being offered is not be enough to support the infrastructure that will be needed.
The Leaders say that while the Deal provides an opportunity for more joined up planning around the county, which could potentially bring benefits, they are concerned that there is a risk that continued under-delivery of housing in places like Oxford could undermine Local Plans elsewhere in Oxfordshire.
Both Vale and South’s Local Plans are in the final stages and are due for public examination this year.
Cllr Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said “A deal with Government to deliver infrastructure funding and provide safeguards for local plans would of course be welcomed, but it has to be the right deal that doesn’t have unintended consequences of uncontrolled development across the countryside.”
Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, Cllr John Cotton, added “I hope that we are close to an agreement, but there are important details that need to be clarified before we can sign up to any deal. Investment in Oxfordshire is overdue but it cannot come at the cost of local communities.”
Vale’s Full Council will meet on 14 February and South’s on 15 February to consider the Deal.