Contributing and responding to Local Plans across Oxfordshire

Advanced Oxford is preparing submissions and responses to Local Plan consultation stages across the five Local Planning Authorities in Oxfordshire during 2024. By May, 2024, submissions have been made in response to the consultations on the Oxford City Council plan and on the South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse Joint Local Plan.

Oxfordshire’s Innovation Engine 2023 report has also been sent to each planning team to form part of the evidence base in the preparation of these strategies for each District as a means to strengthen the economic element of Local Plans.

Background to the development of Local Plans

The preparation of a Local Plan progresses through different plan making stages as set out in regulations. The key stages of Local Plan development are described as ‘Regulation 18’ through to ‘Regulation 24’ (adoption of the Local Plan).  The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) from Government sets out guidance for how plans should be prepared and the themes to consider. The most recent NPPF is from December 2023.

Each of the 4 Local Plans being prepared by the Councils are at various stages.  Although there are five district councils, South Oxfordshire Council and Vale of the White Horse Council are developing a joint plan.

The submissions made to date by Advanced Oxford have drawn on the Oxfordshire Innovation Engine 2023 report and argued that each plan needs to meet the economic needs of the district, as well as local housing need; investment in meeting digital, transport, water and energy infrastructure needs; as well as encouraging closer joint working between the Councils and closer engagement with Advanced Oxford to help ensure economic opportunities are secured.

Status of Local Plans (reported end of May, 2024)

Oxford City Local Plan Review

The City Local Plan Review was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for Examination on 28 March 2024. Formally, as submission has now taken place, the Examination is considered to have commenced. Oxford City included the Advanced Oxford report as part of its evidence base as we requested in our submission to them.

2 Inspectors were appointed on 8th April 2024.  It is anticipated that the Inspectors Report will be received by March 2025, with Local Plan Adoption anticipated in June 2025.

Key issues for the Examination include:

  • Confirming the level of housing need for the City, and following an urban capacity review, the level of unmet housing need that spills over to be picked up by the 3 neighbouring Local Plans for Cherwell, South and Vale, and West Oxfordshire. Both the City and Cherwell Local Plan review are using housing numbers that draw on the joint report that considered demographic data for Oxfordshire and the 5 Districts.
  • How the ‘Duty to Cooperate’ has been addressed between the City and the neighbouring planning authorities. The Duty is one of engagement, not necessarily agreement. The NPPF requires Planning Authorities to determine their district housing need taking into account the unmet housing need from neighbouring districts.

South Oxfordshire and Vale of the White Horse Joint Local Plan

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse Councils (South and Vale) are preparing a joint Local Plan. South and Vale have very recently consulted on a Regulation 18 ‘preferred options Local Plan’, to which Advanced Oxford responded.

The next stages for the South and Vale Local Plan are.

  • Public Consultation on Pre-Submission (Regulation 19) October/ November 2024, to which Advanced Oxford will respond.
  • Submission to Secretary of State (Regulation 22) April 2025
  • Examination in Public (Regulation 24) August 2025
  • Inspector’s report (Regulation 25) November 2025
  • Adoption (Regulation 26) December 2025

A number of issues are arising:

  • South and Vale are disputing the unmet housing need from Oxford City.
  • South and Vale have prepared a limited new growth plan, so its own demographic change is not supported, and neither are economic trends and opportunities.
  • The Labour party has stated that it would increase local housing targets ‘immediately’ if they are elected. This would compound the growth challenge faced by South and Vale.

Cherwell Local Plan Review

Advanced Oxford has recently been invited to discuss our priorities with Cherwell following circulation of 2023, ahead of their next formal consultation and a response is in preparation.

Next stages for the development of the Cherwell Local Plan are intended to be:

  • Consultation on Proposed Submission Plan (Reg 19) – Sept/Oct 2024, to which Advanced Oxford will respond.
  • Submission (Reg 22) – Jan 2025
  • Examination (Reg 24) – Hearings estimated April – May 2025
  • Receipt and Publication of the Inspectors Report (Reg 25) – estimated Sept 2025
  • Adoption (Reg 26) – estimated Dec 2025

West Oxfordshire Local Plan Review

Advanced Oxford is also engaging with West Oxfordshire ahead of their next Plan making stage, to help strengthen the economic aspects of their Plan and offering use of the innovation engine dashboard. The next stages for the development of the West Oxfordshire Local Plan are stated as being:

  • Consultation on preferred policy options/approaches (Reg 18) – June 2024 to which Advanced Oxford will respond.
  • Publication of Proposed Submission Plan (Reg 19) – Nov 2024
  • Submission– April 2025
  • Examination (Reg 24) – Summer 2025
  • Inspectors Report (Reg 25) – Not estimated.
  • Adoption (Reg 26) – 2025 (but early 2026 is more likely).

The near future

The activities outlined above may well be impacted by the outcome of this year’s general election. The Labour party has already indicated that they intend to require higher housing numbers and support for economic growth, which will impact on these draft plans and the growth assumptions associated with each of them.

The Planning Project for Advanced Oxford is led by senior consultant planner Adrian Colwell. Adrian was previously Director of Planning and Growth at Cherwell District Council and led preparation of the Oxfordshire 2050 Plan, prior to it being abandoned by the Councils across Oxfordshire.

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