Letter to the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

​Dear Mr Jenrick,

South Oxfordshire in the Dark

I am writing as a member of campaign group A Better South Oxfordshire and on behalf of 250 very concerned residents who attended an emergency meeting we called on Sat 25th January.

Our objective was to seek to gain a clearer understanding of the background and possible consequences of the letter you wrote to Cllr Sue Cooper on 7th January 2020. There is widespread incredulity across our district that any politician would ever contemplate moving powers from elected representatives that won free and fair elections in the United Kingdom.

We were very grateful to 4 councillors who agreed to participate in a question and answer session with the general public on this issue. They were Sue Cooper and Robin Bennett of SODC, Tim Bearder and Liz Brighouse from Oxfordshire County Council. I should stress that both of the SODC councillors were very mindful of honouring the directives you have set concerning what they can discuss in relation to eLP2034. 

No responses were shared with regard to the letters written by SODC to your Ministry on 10th January 2020 (from CEO,  Mark Stone) and 17th January 2020 (from Cllr Sue Cooper) although it was clear that SODC believe they do have an existing local plan in place with sufficient land supply to prevent speculative development. This is a fundamental point that you raised in your letter of 7th January. We are still particularly interested to understand on what basis you believe they do not have a plan in place as no-one at the meeting could enlighten us on this point.  

It was also evident that SODC Cabinet have worked very hard to find a way forward with eLP2034 but given the concerns they have got, the mandate from their electorate to protect the green belt and Officers’ advice to withdraw the plan they appear to be acting appropriately in seeking to quickly create a new, ambitious environmentally responsible plan.

Many of the concerns raised with you in Sue Coopers letter of 17th January came up as questions during the meeting, or in emails following the meeting,  including :

  • The legality of undermining local democracy if planning powers were to be transferred to another council.
  • The extent to which the housing crisis is being exacerbated in Oxford City by the continued expansion of university student and employee numbers and a reluctance to allow house building on sites reserved for future employment.
  • The urgent need to provide sufficient affordable & social housing rather than predominantly larger houses which boost developer’s profits and do nothing for local communities.
  • Protecting the Green Belt which has safeguarded land from development for more than 50 years, preserving the unique setting and character of the historic city of Oxford and preventing uncontrolled urban sprawl.
  • The seemingly unplanned impact on infrastructure and public services of the high volumes of housing and population growth being planned for Oxfordshire either from the Growth Deal or the OxCam Arc.  Services tend to be funded retrospectively on preceding activity. So, with a rapidly growing population, funding consistently lags behind reality. The faster the rate of growth, the more likely that services will be destabilised. This is in the context of services already stretched to their limits. 
  • Will the Expressway be cancelled as announced by John Howell MP before the election ?
  • Ensuring all houses in South Oxfordshire are built to zero carbon emissions standards.
  • How to ensure the Climate Emergency, that we have created, is fully acknowledged and put at the heart of future plans. The Government’s new Agriculture bill, part of a ‘important environmental reform’ highlights the importance of soil, which is central to improving crop quality and acts as a carbon sink, soaking up planet-warning greenhouse gases. This is not a time to be ripping up the countryside.

We urge you to respect democracy and allow our elected councillors to continue with the very difficult work that we have elected them to do.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Kelly

78, Southend
Garsington
Oxfordshire
OX44 9DJ

A Better South Oxfordshire is a non-party-political campaign group who want to see the needs of local people put before party political dogma and speculative property developers. We support:

  • Protection of the greenbelt and countryside
  • Affordable and social housing for local people
  • Sustainable communities that promote quality of life and local businesses
  • Local councillors who work together for the good of South Oxfordshire

Contact us: info@abettersouthoxfordshire.org.uk