Following the warning from Savills Oxford director David Bainbridge that Oxfordshire’s special land supply privileges were at risk (Thames Tap, February 11), the Government has confirmed those advantages have now been withdrawn. Katriona Ormiston-Rees, senior planner for Savills Oxford, explains what this means for the county’s local authorities.

The Government has written to the Oxfordshire Growth Board (OGB) to confirm it will be revoking the county’s special land supply privileges this month.

OGB vice-chair, Cllr Michele Mead, told members of the board on Monday (March 22) that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has confirmed a ministerial statement would be published before the end of March withdrawing the county’s three year land supply flexibilities.

Cllr Mead expressed her disappointment that the privileges are not to be extended, and said a focus on short term housing land supply considerations could divert resources away from longer term planning.

Oxfordshire’s five local planning authorities currently benefit from only having to demonstrate three years’ worth of housing land supply, rather than the five years’ worth that other authorities need.

These privileges were given to Oxfordshire in a Government ministerial statement of September 2018 on the basis that an Oxfordshire-wide plan, the Joint Statutory Spatial Plan, was to be adopted by March 31, 2021.

Since the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 is now delayed by at least a year, the development industry had been awaiting a Government update on whether the privileges would be extended or revoked.

It means Oxford City Council, Vale of White Horse District Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Cherwell District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council will all need five years’ worth of housing land supply or risk planning applications with a presumption in favour of sustainable development as set out in paragraph 11d of the National Planning Policy Framework.

As such, the housing industry has been watching while each council has been posting its latest housing land supply position papers. These figures can be changeable since they rely on housing delivery, which could be impacted, for example, by slower supply chains, delays from Covid-19 lockdowns or allocated strategic sites taking longer than projected to be built out.

Between June 2020 and March 2021, South Oxfordshire’s land supply claim has slipped from 9.15 years to 5.35 years. Cherwell’s has increased slightly from 4.4 years in September 2020 to 4.8 in December 2020.

“As such, developers may be scrutinising Oxfordshire’s councils closely, and considering suitable sustainable sites, which are not necessarily in Local Plans, to come forward. Any upcoming planning appeals may examine the robustness of the councils’ calculations.

It is thought that Cllr Mead’s concern about resources being diverted away from longer term planning are because planning officers may have to spend time trying to defend planning appeals in the near future.

Local planning authority Supply Position (in years) Date Source
Cherwell 4.8

Dec 2020
Oxford 5.33 Dec 2020


South Oxfordshire 5.35 Mar 2021


Vale of White Horse 5.0 Aug 2020
West Oxfordshire 5.4 Jan 2021


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