Further to the South Oxfordshire District Council Cabinet decision of the 3rd October 2019, which recommended withdrawing the emerging Local Plan and the subsequent correspondence from the Secretary of State expressing concern over the current progress with the preparation of the Local Plan, the Sec of State has now taken the decision to intervene.
In reaching a decision the Sec of State cited the following criteria:
- The least progress in plan-making has been made.
- Policies in plans have not been kept up to date.
- There was higher housing pressure.
- Intervention would have the greatest impact in accelerating Local Plan production.
- The wider planning context in the area; the extent to which authorities are working co-operatively to put strategic plans in place.
- The wider planning context in the area; the potential impact on neighbourhood planning activity.
- Responses from SODC setting out exceptional circumstances as to why a suitable plan is not in place.
As a result the Sec of State has made a direction(s) under section 27(2)(b) of the 2004 Act, which SODC must adhere to, and which require:
- Progression of the Plan through examination and adoption by December 2020.
- Report monthly (from the date of the letter) to DCHLG officials on progress of the Plan.
Importantly, SODC will be expected to report monthly on how the Plan can deliver sufficient supply of housing. Progress will be closely monitored and if further delays are incurred further intervention may be required to ensure an up-to-date Local Plan is in place in South Oxfordshire.
There are implications for other Local Planning Authorities, in this instance the latest Development Plan in South Oxfordshire was adopted in 2012 and in terms of progress of the Plan this had reached submission stage as of March 2019. The Sec of State reasoning is “Assuming South Oxfordshire withdraw the Plan and meet their target for adopting a new Local Plan in June 2024, based on current Local Development Schemes, only one Council in England would have an older Local Plan than South Oxfordshire.” The above reason by Sec of State is reliant upon all other Development Schedules being up to date and realistic and in our experience many are not and have certainly not reached the stage of SODC. In this case further intervention might be likely.
In addition, under section 21A of the 2004 Act the Holding Direction on the Plan has been withdrawn with immediate effect