Woodstock Town Council

Incorporated by Royal Charter of Henry VI in 1453

                   

Report of District Councillors for Bladon, Blenheim and Woodstock
to Woodstock Town Council
11th September 2018

WODC Local Plan 2011-31

At last the Inspector has delivered his verdict on West Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan 2031. At the end of a report of 66 pages, the Inspector, Malcolm Rivett, concludes that, subject to a series of Major Modifications submitted after the revised Local Plan was submitted early in 2017, ‘meets the criteria for soundness in the National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012)’. The Plan will be considered in Council on September 27th for final approval. In between now and then your councillors will have to work through an estimated 700 pages of documents.

The report debates at length on the housing numbers and the rate of delivery of these. The Inspector agrees to a stepped approach to the number of houses deliverable each year to make up the numbers which should have been built between 2011-2018 and to the practicality of using the Liverpool method rather than the Sedgefield method for rate of delivery of houses. The District will therefore be expected to build dwellings at the following minimum rates :

2011-21: 550dpa;
2021-2023: 800dpa;
2023-2024: 975dpa; and
2024-2031:1,125 dpa.
However, the Inspector is not convinced that Council will be able to achieve the high rates of the later years since the maximum number of homes delivered in any recent year was 865 dpa (in 2007/8). Reassuringly the Inspector estimates that the Council has, currently, a deliverable housing land supply between 5.3 and 6.6 years.  There is a statutory obligation to review the progress of the Plan at least twice before 2031. Progress with meeting the housing delivery rates as indicated and any changed housing needs will be critically evaluated at these reviews.

We understood Inspector Rivett is well known for his enthusiasm for walking and in commenting on sites put forward for development. He frequently mentions having walked around the areas on several occasions, evaluating them for himself. In relation to Woodstock, he refers to viewing the relation of the strategic sites to Blenheim Park, Palace and Monument both from the sites and from the Park and, in particular, from the Monument. He does discuss development in Woodstock in relation to the WHS in some detail. We cannot print all the relevant comments here but the following seem relevant.

Conclusion on Housing Allocations at Woodstock

209. I conclude that, subject to the further modifications proposed to the relevant policies, each of the Woodstock housing allocations would be likely to cause, at most, only limited harm to the landscape and to the setting of heritage assets in the area. Moreover, having regard to the Landscape and Heritage Advice report’s specific consideration of the matter, I conclude that, cumulatively, development of these housing allocations would not cause substantial harm to these heritage assets or the landscape. NPPF (Para 132) makes clear that where development would be likely to cause less than substantial harm to a heritage asset the development will require clear and convincing justification.

210. There is an identified need for 15,950 new dwellings in the district (including in respect of Oxford City’s unmet needs). Although it would be possible to provide for this without any new housing at Woodstock, the town is an identified Rural Service Centre with a good range of local facilities and excellent public transport links with Oxford. In my judgement the benefit of providing for around 600 dwellings (less than 4% of the plan’s overall housing requirement) in this sustainable location represents clear and convincing justification for the proposed housing development, bearing in mind the importance of the nearby heritage assets and the level of harm which would be likely to be caused to them. 

211. Consequently for the plan to be positively-prepared MM59, MM60 and MM61 are necessary. These modify the plan to include policies EW1c, EW1d and EW1e which allocate for housing, subject to appropriate criteria and requirements, the following sites: Land East of Woodstock (around 300 homes), Land north of Hill Rise (around 120 homes) and Land North of Banbury Road (around 180 homes). I am satisfied that the “landscape dominated design” and “protect the rural setting of the WHS” wording of these policies is sound. It would not require the use of judgement materially more than would the suggested alternative wording and it reflects the language of the Landscape and Heritage Advice, the recommendations of which are, in the most part, key to my conclusion that the allocations are acceptable. Furthermore, I do not see this wording as fundamentally in conflict with the allocation of these sites for housing; it is the rural setting of the WHS which is to be protected and this does not, as a matter of principle, rule out housing development within the setting.  

212. The policies’ requirement that air quality/hydrological impacts on Blenheim Park SSSI are assessed by developers is sound and aligns with Natural England’s suggestion in December 2016. In the context of there being no evidence to indicate that housing development on the sites would cause harm in these particular respects, and since any such impact would be likely to vary according to the precise details of the proposed development, it is not necessary or appropriate for such assessments to have been carried out at this stage. Should it be shown that unacceptable harm in these respects would be likely to be caused by housing proposals which come forward they could be refused under the provisions of policy EH2 and/or policy EH6

213. In conclusion, subject to the above-mentioned modifications, the plan sets out a soundly-based strategy for the Eynsham - Woodstock sub-area

WODC Water Day

WODC is holding a Water Day on Thursday 4th October starting at 10am at Woodgreen. Town and Parish councils are being invited to send a representative. It is anticipated the meeting will last several hours.

The three key issues intending to be considered/addressed are:

The EA response to the pollution of the River Windrush, and other concerns about water quality in the river network

Flooding Issues (anything locally which people consider needs addressing, and development concerns)

Thames Water network issues – e.g. sewerage, sustainability going forward, and planning for new development

Presentations from the Environment Agency and Thames Water with time for questions are planned.

Corporate Peer Challenge. During October Cotswold DC and WODC are taking part in a joint Corporate Peer Challenge organised and supported by the Local Government Association. A team knowledgeable and experienced in local government will act as ‘critical friend’ and carry out a ‘health check’ on each council and the council’s ability to deliver on plans, proposals and ambitions. Information will be gathered by attending meetings, interviewing staff, councillors and Council partners in relation to Council’s understanding of the local place and priority setting; leadership of place; financial planning and viability; organisational leadership and governance; and capacity to deliver. The team has also been asked to look particularly at progress of delivering transformation plans, governance arrangements and the effectiveness of the operating model. The team will feedback conclusions with recommendations. At a later stage the team will make a follow up visit to assess progress in the areas recognised as needing improvement and development.  The findings of the Challenge team report could be interesting.

WODC Cllrs Julian Cooper & Elizabeth Poskitt

 

Oxfordshire County Councillor Ian Hudspeth's September 2018 Report

TRUMP VISIT
I accepted the invitation by the Prime Minister to attend the dinner at Blenheim Palace for the visit of the President of the United States. I realise that he is a controversial figure however I think it’s important we respect the position. The event went well and showed Blenheim at its best, I understand that there has been an increase in interest from the US which must be good news for the area. I also respect the right for people to protest which they did in a good atmosphere although I wonder if they should be protesting to the Americans that voted for him?

£120 MILLION ADDITIONAL HIGHWAYS FUNDS
The report of a business case to increase Highway maintenance by £120 million over the next 10 years based on the Growth in the Oxfordshire economy will be going to the September Cabinet. This is good news for highways maintenance as it’ll provide long term repairs to the road structure. There has been extra investment in another Dragon patcher along with other equipment which you should see out repairing the roads. Following the bad winter, we have repaired nearly 40,000 defects but there is still more work to be done. I’m pushing for local schemes to be completed before the winter.

FIT FOR THE FUTURE
The County Council has saved over £300 million pa from its budget since 2010 but still needs to save an additional £33 million over the next 4 years. Having taken some difficult decisions there is little scope to reduce funding without impacting on front line services. Instead the Council is redesigning the way it operates across all areas and investing in digital technology; this should realise between £34 to £58 million pa of savings. This would mean we achieve the savings without impacting on front line services and have funds to reinvest in services.

NEW CABINET
The Cabinet will have 2 new members, Cllr Corkin who will be responsible for the alignment of services with Cherwell DC and Cllr Reeves who will be responsible for the Fit For the Future programme. These are both important tasks as we redesign the way the council operates to protect front line jobs and continue to balance the books.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Cllr Hibbert-Biles for all her hard work on Cabinet since I became Leader, she has had several different portfolios and will be missed.

COUNCILLOR PRIORITY FUND
I was pleased to approve £5,000 from the priority fund for the ‘OUR BUS’ project in Middle Barton which provides a valuable service for residents in the area offering a wide range of destinations such as Begbroke, Bicester, Chipping Norton, Deddington, Kidlington, Oxford Parkway and Yarnton.
Full details can be found at:
http://ourbusbartons.btck.co.uk/YourJourneyWithUs.
For details about the Priority fund please follow the link:

https://www2.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/content/councillor-priority-fund

ACTIVE AND HEALTHY TRAVEL ENCOURAGED
Commuters returning to work after the holiday period are being encouraged to walk or cycle, for all or part of their journey, by OCC. The council is championing healthy alternatives to the car, which will also help to reduce congestion and pollution on the county’s roads. Exercise is widely recognised as one of the best ways to improve physical and mental health. Daily physical activity lowers the risk of depression and dementia by around 30 per cent according to the Department of Health. Exercise also reduces the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and strokes. The council has appointed an active and healthy travel officer, using central government funding, to assess existing walking and cycling routes. Priority will be given to improvements and maintenance schemes designed to encourage active travel and reduce pollution. Over 85,000 new jobs and 100,000 new homes are planned in Oxfordshire by 2031. The council is committed to ensuring that as the population grows, infrastructure is in place to encourage healthy travel options. Streets and spaces will be developed to put first the needs of pedestrians and cyclists. OCC’s Cycling Champion, Councillor Suzanne Bartington, said: “Active travel is win, win, win - for health, the environment and local economy. I encourage Oxfordshire residents to try foot or bike even for only part of their journey and feel the positive benefits for themselves.” For further information about the benefits of active travel, visit the website: www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/whycycle

£80K BOOST FOR KIDS’ CYCLING SAFETY
Almost every primary school child in the county will now be able to get free cycle safety training after the award of an £84,500 Bikeability grant which will pay for an additional 2000 places. The bulk of cycling training in the county is carried out by a 700-strong army of volunteer instructors under the Oxfordshire Cycle Training Scheme, which has been running for more than 40 years. Training is offered to children from nine-years-old and up and is a mixture of learning about the Highways Code and practical ‘on the road’ tuition. Parents and carers who want their children to take part in training should contact their school’s head teacher.

SHENZHEN VISIT
The British Embassy in Beijing invited me to take part in the Shenzhen Smart Cities conference, I was only in the City for just over 2 days but found the visit enlightening as they are suffering from similar challenges to ourselves; congestion, high property prices and an aging population. It’s important that we work together to find solutions to these common issues.

LGA APPOINTMENT
I have been appointed as the Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board which includes Adult Social Care. This will be a challenge but it’s important we all work together to find a solution to this issue.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth
07956270 318

Ian.hudspeth@oxfordshire.gov.uk