Both district councils in southern Oxfordshire have written to housing minister Robert Jenrick to state their opposition to the Planning for the Future White Paper.

On the final day before consultation closed on October 29, South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) and Vale of White Horse (VoWHDC) wrote separately to the minister and outlined different concerns. Both, however, suggest the reforms allow too little input from residents.

Cllr Anne-Marie Simpson, cabinet member for planning at SODC, said she welcomed the greater use of digital technology but suggested much of the proposals would weaken, rather than improve, the system.

She went on: “We are especially concerned that the proposed new system reduces opportunities for democratically elected local councillors and residents to comment on planning proposals that directly affect them.

“I am also very concerned by the lack of ambition to strengthen the many important environmental protections that form part of the existing planning system, and the lack of clarity from Government on the future of neighbourhood plans, which many residents in South Oxfordshire have spent time and resources helping to develop.”

Cllr Neil Fawcett, cabinet member for strategic partnerships and place for VoWHDC said: “Whilst we agree that the white paper correctly identifies some legitimate failings in the current system, the proposed reforms are likely to make things worse and move things in the wrong direction.

“A key concern is that the proposed changes would reduce or remove the right of residents to engage with planning applications near them.

“Local communities must be in the driving seat on shaping the future of their communities. We need to see places delivered that are well designed, of a high quality and which address the climate challenges we face.”

Both letters were sent by leading planning officers and can be seen here (SODC) and here (VoWHDC).

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