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Preparation underway for next stage of Joint Local Plan

Innovative new planning policies to help two Oxfordshire districts reach their full potential and address challenges they face, are on the local agenda – and you’ll soon be able to have your say.

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils are preparing to launch a second round of consultation early next year to develop their new Joint Local Plan to 2041.

The Joint Local Plan will help the councils determine planning applications, set out how and where new housing developments should take place, set standards for developments such as carbon and energy efficiency requirements, and guide what infrastructure is needed across the districts.

The next public consultation will ask for people’s thoughts on proposed approaches across various policy areas, from reducing carbon emissions and nature recovery, to protecting and enhancing local heritage, meeting community infrastructure and transport needs, affordable housing, jobs and economic opportunities, and more. New policy areas which previous local plans haven’t covered include policies to protect valued landscapes, tranquil places and dark skies.

Backed by extensive feedback gathered in 2022, as well as a suite of new studies and the latest industry research, the councils are proposing to reduce the number of new houses needed each year, improve minimum standards for water and energy efficiency, increase biodiversity and the number of affordable houses developments need to deliver, and more.

The first Joint Local Plan consultation received over 2,500 responses through a new interactive platform, for which the councils were announced a finalist in a national award for creating an interactive, digital-first approach in planning.

This innovation will continue in the new consultation, where the councils will be using a new digital engagement platform for people to read easy-to-understand summaries and share their feedback, or delve into the details of the draft policies. This will be as well as holding events and providing paper copies in libraries for those who prefer to get involved in more traditional formats.

Councillor Anne-Marie Simpson, Cabinet Member for Planning at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “We engaged with residents and business from the very start of our Joint Local Plan journey, and I’m excited to share our progress and get your thoughts through our next consultation.

“These proposed approaches and policies make sure we’re not just rolling policies forward but truly leveraging the exciting opportunities on the horizon and addressing key challenges. For example, we’re proposing to raise standards of carbon, water and energy efficiency for developers to help our districts become carbon neutral and do more to tackle climate change. I look forward to sharing our plans in more detail soon and hearing your thoughts on our proposals.”

Councillor Andy Foulsham, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, Policy and Programmes at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “The two councils working together to produce a joint plan means we can get more value out of our taxpayers’ money to help address challenges faced across both districts, including climate change, traffic and affordable housing, and more.

“I’m excited to continue the excellent work from our first consultation and use your feedback to deliver a Joint Local Plan that truly reflects the needs of our districts. We’ll be sharing information through our council websites and social media channels so keep an eye out for announcements in the new year.”

The next consultation is scheduled to launch to the public in January 2024, subject to review by both councils’ cabinets.

Notes to the editor:

A preview of the Joint Local Plan consultation materials is available on both the South Oxfordshire District Council website and the Vale of White Horse District Council website