Motion calling for review of new housing needs assessment blocked by Labour and Conservatives

The Churchyard At St Mary's in Kidlington

The Oxfordshire Growth needs Assessment (OGNA) forms a central part of the new Oxfordshire 2050 plan which seeks to provide a strategic platform to co-ordinate development across the whole of the county. This has been dubbed the ‘Son of SHMA’ by Green councillor Ian Middleton referring to the much criticised Strategic Housing Needs Assessment which has previously been used to justify developments on green belt in his district ward in East Kidlington and elsewhere.

The OGNA has been dubbed a developer’s charter by civic groups including CPRE, the Oxford Civic Society, Friends of the Earth, POETs, Bioabundance, the Oxfordshire Neighbourhood Plans Alliance and others.  They have called for a full peer review of the OGNA figures before we move to the next stage of the consultation process, after which it may be too late to change them.

Such targets are likely to have an impact on the council’s 5 year land supply which protects planners against speculative development.  Cherwell’s 5YLS currently stands at 3.8 years meaning that it could be subject to such developments. Adopting even higher growth assessments would make it even more difficult for councils to achieve these targets.

At Cherwell’s full council meeting on Monday evening, Councillor Middleton brought a motion calling for the council to back the principle of a peer review of the OGNA figures.  He said that the council risked “painting itself into the same corner” with unrealistic and unachievable growth targets and warned that adopting these new figures could lead to even more green belt and rural spaces being lost around Banbury and Bicester, after similar sites were removed from green belt protection in Yarnton, Begbroke and Kidlington.

The motion was lost with both Labour and the Conservatives voting against.

Ian Middleton
Ian Middleton of the North Oxfordshire Green Party

Speaking after the meeting Ian Middleton said :

“We are at a critical stage in this consultation, where the interpretation of responses now will be fed into the next stage of the plan after which there will be very little opportunity to change things.  If unrealistic growth figures are baked into the plan now, we face a similar situation to that created by the SHMA which received significant criticism for inflating housing need by as much as 40% and led directly to the imminent destruction of large areas of green belt in Oxfordshire”

“We need an urgent independent peer review of this assessment before moving to the next stage of the consultation process. The OGNA could well be the ‘Son of SHMA’ giving developers, landowners and planning authorities a charter to ride roughshod over local feeling yet again, forcing through development over and above any actual need in the pursuit of growth for its own sake”

“It was extremely disappointing that the Conservatives voted against what was merely an in-principle proposal. It was even more surprising to see that the Labour group joined forces with them to block the motion. We all know that the Conservatives can’t be trusted to protect our rural green spaces, but I thought Labour were better than this. It’s clear that both parties are completely out of touch with the needs and wishes of the rural communities they are supposed to be serving”