‘Uber-Growth Board’ could cut local views out of OxCam discussions

Need not Greed Oxfordshire is appalled that a small group of Local Authority leaders are now going to take the lead on discussions with Government about development proposals along the OxCam Arc.

This ‘uber-Growth Board’, an executive sub-group of the OxCam Arc Leaders Group, has not published its terms of reference and has no public accountability. Neither the sub-group or its parent body have ever met in public or published agendas or minutes.  NNGO understands that the sub-group will include representatives from lobby groups such as the Local Enterprise Partnerships and Universities, but not from environmental or community groups.

Despite this, the Oxfordshire Growth Board has already chosen three of our local authority leaders to sit on this sub-group, leaving the other three Oxfordshire local authority leaders out in the cold.

Need not Greed Oxfordshire condemns this entire process as lacking any public accountability or democratic process.  It has written to the Chair of the OxCam Arc Leaders group, Cllr Barry Wood (also Leader, Cherwell District Council) to express its concerns about this ‘behind closed doors’ approach.  It has also written to the Chair of the Oxfordshire Growth Board, Cllr Emily Smith (also Leader, Vale of White Horse District Council) to ask how the Board could have elected 3 Oxfordshire representatives to the sub-group, without discussing its terms of reference.

NNGO expects:

  1. Each local authority to establish a clear, democratic mandate for its position on the Arc.
  2. The terms of reference for the OxCam Arc Leaders Group and Executive Sub-Group to be subject to public debate and consultation
  3. These terms of reference to be focussed on environment, wellbeing and the post Covid reality of the need to focus any growth on wholly sustainable lines. These terms of reference can then inform debate as to the correct representation on the group/s.
  4. No further meetings of the OxCam Arc Leaders/Chief Executives/Executive Group to take place unless such meetings are held in public (virtually, if necessary), with published agendas and minutes, and with the opportunity for members of the public to ask questions and address the Groups.

NNGO believes that the Government is still wedded to its proposals for massive development along the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and is gearing up to push these through, regardless of public opinion or environmental imperatives, as part of a Covid-19 recovery package.

Vale of White Horse Statement of Community Involvement – should do what it says on the tin

Need Not Greed Oxfordshire would like to see the Statement of Community Involvement as exactly that: an opportunity for the needs of communities and their residents in the Vale of White Horse to be prioritised and their feedback used to direct the future of the district.

Consultation on the Vale of White Horse Statement of Community Involvement closes this week, Thursday 9th April. It will plan how communities within the Vale will be able to influence planning policy, including the Local Plan. It will also set out how anyone interested will be able to comment on planning applications for development.

NNGO believes communities should be involved as early as possible to offer their views on key documents, such as the Housing Needs Assessment currently being prepared for the Oxfordshire 2050 Plan. It would not be acceptable for such a document to be prepared without being subject to public debate and subsequently presented as ‘evidence’ dictating Local Plan housing numbers.
We must at all costs avoid a repeat of the 2014 Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment that was drawn up behind closed doors but contained aggressive and unrealistic growth targets that subsequently dictated the content of District Plans.

There should be an option to provide for the natural growth needs of the existing population. Any growth proposals over and above the need arising from natural growth should be clearly identified as such and open to public debate.

NNGO welcomes the intention to engage as wide a range of the local community as possible. We would like to see open engagement with all interested parties, including Vale residents, on targets before they are set, with action and feedback demonstrating how their views are considered and the plan modified accordingly.

Read the NNGO consultation response here.

General Election 2019

With the General Election imminent, NNGO has written to all Parliamentary Candidates standing in Oxfordshire constituencies asking them to help restore public confidence in the planning system and pledge support for NNGO’s campaign priorities and communicate the concerns of thousands of residents in Oxfordshire.

Read the letter in full here: General Election 2019 – NNGO Letter to Oxfordshire Candidates – Dec 19

Questions to Candidates
NNGO has prepared a series of questions you may want to put to candidates.
Questions cover: local housing, OxCam Expressway, East-West Rail, ecology and the environment, local democracy, population/growth of Oxfordshire, the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, transport, climate change and employment.

If you’d like to know a candidate’s position on housing and the OxCam Arc but aren’t sure what to ask, this document can help! It offers suggested questions and the reasons we should be asking them. For example:

Local Housing

  • What action will you take to ensure truly affordable housing for local people is actually delivered?
  • Do you support the 6 district councils’ current intention to continue to plan build 100,000 houses by the mid 2030’s, when the latest government projections show we only need approximately 50,000?
  • Where would you put the 300,000 houses that Oxfordshire is expected to produce as part of the 1 million houses imposed by the “Oxford-Cambridge growth Arc?”

Why are we asking?

  • Housing should be plan-led not developer led (shouldn’t facilitate speculative development)
  • Local authorities should be able to enforce affordable housing delivery to the levels specified in local plans and not give way to developers who say they are unprofitable.
  • Local authorities should be able to review numbers using the latest 2016 Objectively Assessed Need figures not the (higher) out-dated 2014 figures
  • Truly affordable housing is needed for rent as well as to buy
  • “Affordable Housing” at 80% of market rate is still unaffordable for many local people.
  • The proposed level of imposed house building will not improve affordability

Read all the suggested questions and why NNGO think they need to be asked  – General Election 2019 – NNGO Questions to Candidates Gen Dec 19

Or visit the Resources page on the NNGO website.

England’s Economic Heartland Transport Strategy

England’s Economic Heartland (EEH) is currently consulting on its Outline Transport Strategy, closes 31st October 2019

England’s Economic Heartland – who they?    Well might you ask!
Download the guide below for further information.
NNGO Guide to EEH & its Outline Transport Strategy

For more information and to download the Outline Transport Strategy visit the EEH website here.

Read NNGO’s response to the consultation here.