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Councils challenge Oxford City’s plan for high housing numbers

It’s time Oxford City Council stopped trying to export housing development to its rural neighbours according to two other Oxfordshire councils who have said the city’s plans for housing are unsustainable and hostile. 

South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse district councils have both responded firmly to Oxford City Council’s consultation that appears to be attempting to exceed the city’s remit and force more development across Oxfordshire’s rural countryside. 

The government provides a standard formula for calculating how many new homes a council needs to plan for –  this formula is even known as the standard method. For Oxford City Council this calculation works out at 762 new homes a year.  

However, in its current consultation, the city council has announced its intention not to use the standard method, and instead is seeking to use a different calculation that would nearly double its housing requirement.  

Using an alternative calculation Oxford City Council is seeking 1322 new homes per year instead of the 762 that would otherwise be required. 

As well as nearly doubling the required number of new homes within its own boundary, the city council is claiming that Oxfordshire’s rural district councils should also use the alternative calculation that leads to inflated housing numbers when determining their own housing need. 

South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse district councils believe the city council is acting outside its authority and described this misguided attempt at forcing development in areas outside of its boundaries as hostile. They are requesting that Oxford City restricts its aspiration for unjustifiable housing development to its own borders. 

All authorities undertaking a planning process of this nature must work with their partners under a legal test called the ‘Duty to Cooperate’. This means that Oxford City Council should constructively engage with the surrounding districts. Sadly, in previous consultations, South and Vale have both provided detailed feedback to Oxford City Council on the Oxford Local Plan Preferred Options (November 2022), but the concerns South and Vale raised weren’t even met with a response.  

The two district councils believe this approach of an unjustifiable scale of development, lack of engagement with its neighbours, and inappropriately attempting to dictate the housing need of surrounding areas is unreasonable and does not accord with the requirement that Oxford City Council has to work with its neighbours. 

Cllr Bethia Thomas, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said “We’ve had enough of Oxford overestimating their housing number and underestimating their housing capacity so that they can export housing to neighbouring authorities. This is unsustainable. It generates unwanted pressure on the rural districts and even more misery for people commuting in and around Oxford.” 

Cllr David Rouane, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said “It’s like Oxford is running up a bill they have no intention of paying, and leaving others to pick up the tab. It’s not very neighbourly.”  You can read South and Vale’s full responses to Oxford’s current consultation, which closes on Monday 27 March 2023, on our response page on this website.