David Bainbridge, a director in the Savills Oxford planning team, discusses the latest progress of Oxfordshire’s strategic plan.

The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 is intended to guide new development and the protection and enhancement of the natural environment in Oxfordshire to the year 2050.

Originally expected to have come into force by now, a full draft of the eagerly anticipated plan was released last week, ahead of pubic consultation. The authorities in Oxfordshire are now taking turns to consider the draft and, if all agree to it, then it is intended to go out to public consultation on July 30 for 10 weeks.

The scale of housebuilding and potential impact on the Oxfordshire Green Belt are headline matters which the planning officers and lead councillors will have to grapple with.

The plan sets out a range from just under 100,000 to just under 150,000 new homes to be built within the county over the plan period. Whilst the scale will not be settled by this consultation, it presents challenges as to where and when to build the new housing.

The draft features five broad areas within which new homes may be accommodated. This includes a focus on the city of Oxford through to dispersal across the county. The need to travel around is an important consideration and hence one of the options features rail stations and onward connections.

Oxfordshire benefits from a full suite of Local Plans which currently guide new development over the next 10 to 15 years. These local plans will remain relevant for some time to come but will ultimately be replaced by new Local Plans that will have to broadly accord with the Oxfordshire Plan 2050.

The Oxfordshire Growth Board has successfully coordinated strategic planning for current growth levels, including acceptance of housing provision arising from Oxford in surrounding districts.

The next round of planning will need to address the city’s unmet housing need, with neighbouring authorities potentially asked once again to accommodate additional housing.

Planning and politics are intertwined and local authorities are, of course, often seeking to control the amount, location and type of new housing within their respective areas.

Recent experience in Oxfordshire has shown that plans for growth are open to scrutiny. It will be challenging, even with a solid history of co-operation in the county, for all authorities to agree to a future version of the plan with definitive house building targets.

Being within the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, a nationally-significant area for economic growth, there will be much scrutiny on the pace and scale of planning for development in the county.

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