A campaign group has filed for a judicial review of the South Oxfordshire Local Plan.

Just six weeks after the long-running saga appeared to be over when the plan was adopted by the council under pressure from the Government, campaign group Bioabundance, a Community Interest Company (CIC), has applied to the High Court to seek the review.

It cites the grounds of climate change, ‘improper pressure’ on councillors to adopt it, ‘excessive and incorrectly calculated’ housing numbers and inadequate consultation. It is the first action of its kind to try to overturn a Local Plan.

Lawyers from Brighton Legal Clinic are working on the application without charge. The firm has won previous climate and environmental cases including the, subsequently overturned, refusal of Heathrow’s third runway on climate grounds.

Bioabundance says communities all over South Oxfordshire are supporting its bid to challenge the Local Plan.

It argues the plan:

  • Will be catastrophic for the natural world
  • Will increase carbon emissions markedly
  • Will destroy countryside and Green Belt land
  • Provides for up to five times the number of homes that can even be filled

The group will apply for protection under the Aarhus Convention which can limit costs awarded against litigants of environmental claims.

The saga of the Local Plan began in 2014. A heated political debate followed and it was withdrawn in 2019 by SODC’s, then ruling, coalition of LibDems and Greens before Housing Minister Robert Jenrick stepped in to seek to ensure the plan went through.

Chair of the Bioabundance group is Dr Sue Roberts, a South Oxfordshire councillor who resigned from the Green Party after last month’s decision to adopt the plan.

Along with Cllr Sarah Gray, who resigned from the LibDems at the same time, Cllr Roberts has formed a new group called the South Oxfordshire Residents’ Team (SORT).

Cllr Roberts told Thames Tap: “This Local Plan is not in the best interests of residents in South Oxfordshire, it will be disastrous in terms of climate change and the collapse of the natural world.

“Our pro bono lawyers believe we have a case worth bringing forwards, particularly in respect of the undue pressure put upon councillors to approve the plan that they themselves wished to withdraw.”

She argues that population projections by the ONS require just 8,000 new homes in the district while the plan seeks 23, 500. And she believes the surplus homes will ultimately be bought up by the wealthy at the cost of the Green Belt and the natural world.

It is likely to take some months before the group learns if the action can proceed.

Cllr Roberts added: “It is a pioneering action, the first time an action has been brought forward on these grounds. We have to see how seriously people regard climate change.”

Image by Jonathan Billinger, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12499089

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