After a period of consideration by SODC, this week has seen two pivotal meetings take place with regards to how to progress with the draft Local Plan. The Scrutiny Committee met on Tuesday to decide on what recommendations would be made to the Council Cabinet who met on Thursday evening.
Three options are available, with option A being the preferred option of SODC’s planning department:
Option A) Allow the emerging Local Plan to continue through its examination. Any modifications proposed during the examination will be considered at the sole discretion of the Inspectors.
Option B) Withdraw the Local Plan from examination and make changes to it ahead of a further regulation 19 consultation and resubmission to the Inspectorate for examination. The extent of the changes to the Plan that would be possible under Option B would be limited to no significant changes, in comparison to those that could be made under Option C. Any representations made at that Regulation 19 would be reported to and considered by the Inspector and would not be within the control of the Council.
Option C) Withdraw the Local Plan from examination. The Council would commence work on a new Local Plan. This will allow the Council to prepare a significantly different plan (subject to compliance with the law, and national policies and guidance). The Council would need to undertake at least two rounds of public consultations (Regulation 18 and 19) before submitting the new plan for examination.
We attended both meetings, having registered to speak, and were able once again to put forward the case for removing Chalgrove Airfield from the draft Local Plan. Also in attendance was the Chair of our Parish Council, Ann Pritchard, and the legal representatives of Martin Baker. Between us we were able to address, and strongly refute, the new documentation that has been submitted in this process by Homes England. A copy of all of the documentation provided for the Scrutiny Committee meeting can be found via this link:
A resolution was put forward at the Scrutiny Committee meeting to proceed with Option A above but with an amendment, namely removing Chalgrove Airfield from the draft Local Plan. This did not however get passed at the meeting as it was felt that such a significant change (i.e. the removal of a strategic site) could not be achieved by way of an amendment. No further resolutions were put forward and so the meeting ended, unusually, without an agreed recommendation for the council Cabinet on how to proceed with the draft Local Plan.
Once again the Cabinet meeting was well attended and all three options were discussed, with many representations being heard as to how matters should proceed. Concerns were raised with regard to the loss of infrastructure funding should the draft Local Plan not proceed, and also in relation to the climate emergency declared by SODC in April this year. It is felt that the current draft plan does not do enough to address this emergency and should be scrapped with climate change at the forefront of a new draft local plan. A new draft local plan would also enable the current housing need to be readdressed (with the current housing numbers being dramatically reduced) along with a review of all the current strategic sites.
A unanimous decision was taken at the Cabinet meeting to recommend Option C, as outlined above, to the full Council meeting that takes place on 10th October. A majority vote for this option at the full Council meeting next week would see the current draft plan being withdrawn from the Inspectors for public examination and a new draft plan being written. Whilst this gives us some hope with regard to our airfield there is still a long way to go.
We will be in attendance at the full Council meeting and will provide a further update in due course.