(Please also see updates in the Beckley and Stowood Newsletter – https://beckley-and-stowood-pc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/AUTUMN%202020%20NEWSLETTER_0.pdf and Four Parishes newsletter - https://32cd00f4-a3bc-428b-996b-9d3cf4fe91df.filesusr.com/ugd/e8ebed_67c5e44003af4f2190c714748dd35a24.pdf)

During the Examination in Public of the SODC Local Plan all the local parishes and communities worked very hard together to oppose development at Land north of Bayswater Brook (LnBB - Lower Elsfield, Wick Farm and Bayswater Farm) and development in the Green Belt around Oxford.

SCHEMATIC MAP OF PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT LAND NORTH OF BAYSWATER BROOK

Despite working our socks off, the valuable advice of a Planning Consultant and our best efforts working together, the Inspector Jonathan Bore gave his summing up at the end of the Examination on 7th August and said that although these may not be his final recommendations he would find the whole Local Plan ‘sound’ i.e. all the strategic development sites would go ahead including the 6 out of 7 in the Green Belt.  Our Group working to oppose LnBB and others feel that this was his intention from the start, despite any evidence presented to him to the contrary.

This was confirmed in his ‘Letter’ of 28th August - http://www.southoxon.gov.uk/sites/default/files/IC12%20-%20Inspector's%20Preliminary%20Conclusions%20Letter%20280820.pdf

In the ‘letter’ paragraph 24 concerns LnBB there are 3 main issues – 1. Sydlings Copse and College Pond SSSI; 2. The Green Belt and 3. The Transport Infrastructure. (Please see detailed comments on the Inspector’s letter later.)

PLEASE HELP! – 3 REQUESTS FOR COMMUNITY ACTION NOW

  1. There is an opportunity before the Inspector’s final report is published to influence the outcome by writing to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State, Communities, Housing and Local Government, other members of his department and copying John Howell MP.

Points worth making on the SODC Local Plan –

  • The Green Belt is not protected under current legislation - 6 out of 7 sites are in the Green Belt.  While ‘exceptional circumstances’ must be demonstrated for removing land from the Green Belt for development, as CPRE commented this has now become ‘the norm’.
  • There is no democratic mandate for the SODC Local Plan. There is a democratic mandate for a new revised Local Plan which values the Green Belt, the environment and climate change policies.  Robert Jenrick intervened when SODC councillors wanted to develop a new Local Plan and threatened to give the Plan to the County Council to take forward and said he wanted it adopted by the end of this year.
  • SODC already has a current Local Plan to 2027 with a 5-year land supply, so has time to develop a revised Plan acceptable to the community to replace the current one.
  • There is little confidence in the current Examination system

The conduct and probable outcome of the SODC Local Plan, where most of the development is in the Green Belt, is likely to give people no confidence in the new Planning White Paper ‘Planning for the Future’ or that any land will be ‘protected’. (In the Planning white paper all land will be zoned into ‘Growth’, ‘Renewal’ and ‘Protected’.  The Green Belt is supposed to be protected, but is not.)

People to write to –

Please do consider sending a copy of your letter to the national newspapers.

Attached is a list of MPs with interests in planning and the Environment whom you may also want to write to in addition.

  1. Please sign this petition - ‘Stop Green Belt Destruction in Oxfordshire’

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-green-belt-destruction-in-oxfordshire

  1. There will be consultation on the ‘Main Modifications’ to the Local Plan, including the Inspector’s ‘low car policy‘ which could result in gridlock of our local roads.  This is likely to start week commencing 21st September. We will alert everyone and ask them to respond.

Our Group is also seeking legal advice about a possible judicial review.

THE INSPECTOR’S LETTER

Late on Friday 28th August Inspector Bore’s letter was issued containing his ‘preliminary conclusions on the key matters that arose during this examination’.  This was an expanded version of his summary of 7th August with more details.  For LnBB there are 3 main issues –

1. Sydlings Copse and College Pond SSSI;

2. The Green Belt and

3. The Transport Infrastructure

  1. SSSI – Contrary to the Inspector’s comments no evidence-based mitigation policies to ensure that the SSSI is not damaged have been proposed or agreed with Natural England.  It cannot be said that the SSSI will be protected.
  2. The Green Belt – The Inspector states that the development of the Green Belt sites around Oxford will not cause urban sprawl from Oxford. There is no substantiation for this comment. The Inspector did agree that the countryside would be encroached. For LnBB specifically there is no new defensible boundary and no mitigation, both are required under Green Belt regulations.
  3. The Transport Infrastructure - The third new solution, which was not included in the Local Plan was discussed with the site promoter at the hearing.  Other participants were not given an opportunity to comment.  This proposes using “Oxford City’s planning policies concerning reduced car use and sustainable transport priorities”.  This has not been assessed or modelled at all and it will not address the congestion on the ring road and Headington roundabout.  It will make commuting into Oxford or around the ring road for current residents even more difficult and lengthy.  ‘Connecting Oxford’ and the Oxford City bus gate scheme will also both increase traffic on the ring road and Headington roundabout and their effects have not been assessed either.  The letter states “The suggested wording has been agreed with the County Council and site promoters and can be taken forward for consultation as a main modification.”  This agreement is not on the web site and currently appears not to exist.

EXAMINATION IN PUBLIC

The Examination in Public of the SODC Local Plan started on 14th July presided over by Mr Jonathan Bore, the Inspector who also carried out the examination for Oxford City’s Local Plan.  It was conducted using Microsoft Teams and streamed live on the SODC YouTube channel.

Despite the fact that the Government had strengthened regulations to protect the Green Belt in 2019, 6 out of the 7 strategic development sites are in the Green Belt, including Land north of Bayswater Brook (LnBB), with 1,100 houses which spans our parish and Elsfield, Stanton St John and Forest Hill and also affects Barton and Sandhills.  Approximately 20% of our parishioners who live at Wick Farm and Lower Farm will be surrounded by the development, instead of fields in the Green Belt.  This development was to include alleviation of the traffic gridlock on the ring road and Headington roundabout by either reconfiguration of the Headington roundabout or a link road/Headington roundabout bypass.  This would start from the Elsfield junction on the ring road and go across the site, Bayswater Road and fields to the A40 at Sandhills.  This prompted Lincoln and New Colleges to propose extension of the site along the route of the extended ‘Link Road’ through the fields of SSJ and Forest Hill to develop 4,500 homes (please see map on the Beckley web site).  Sydlings Copse and College Pond a very important and fragile SSSI is on the edge of the development is at great risk.

Our Group representing local parishes and communities worked very hard and effectively together to oppose development in the Green Belt around Oxford and LnBB in particular.  With the help of a Planning Consultant we prepared ‘Hearing Statements’ on each Matter and Issue that concerned LnBB.  She also helped us prepare for the hearings where we spoke.  We would also like to thank all the local residents who completed hearing statements to help our case.

On Friday 7th August Mr Bore gave his summing up at the end of the Examination in Public. Although these may not be his final recommendations, he is going ahead with the whole Plan with very few modifications, despite the housing numbers being inflated by 5-8,000 homes.

For LnBB Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) and SODC have not come to any decision about new transport infrastructure for alleviation of the ring road and Headington roundabout, so OCC suggested the policy of encouraging a low car use policy with no traffic alleviation.   The Inspector grasped enthusiastically at this and said it was the ‘go to sustainable transport solution’, although no assessment has been carried out and it is not a solution.  The developer was also enthusiastic about this, as the site is probably not financially viable with traffic alleviation measures.  For local residents this is the worst scenario as it is likely to cause much longer queues on our local roads, gridlock on the ring road, Headington roundabout and New Marston and local roads used as rat runs.

We would like to thank the Parish Councils and Meetings of Beckley, Elsfield, Forest Hill, Sandhills, SSJ, Horton cum Studley and the Gresswell Environment Trust for funding our planning consultant.

Our Group is Beckley – John Walsh, Ginette Camps-Walsh; Elsfield - Lisa Buchan, Oliver de Soissons; Forest Hill – Andrew Waite Brown; Sandhills – David Adams; SSJ- Andrew Clark, Nicola Mallows for the Gresswell Environmental Trust, all working with Barton - Angela Dickinson and others.