One of the biggest pieces of good news for Oxfordshire runs the risk of being overlooked. It is that we have started a consultation on a new national formula which will have a big impact in reducing the number of houses required in an area such as this. That consultation will play a crucial role in planning for the right number of homes in the right places.
All of this comes out of the work I did on the Local Plan Expert Group set up when Greg Clark MP was the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. In the report published by us we pointed out that in order to plan effectively, local planning authorities need to have a clear and realistic understanding of how many homes they need to build in their area. The existing system for doing this is based on highly complex 'Strategic Housing Market Assessments' commissioned by individual authorities and carried out by consultants. However, different consultants use different methods to determine future need. The whole process is expensive and time-consuming. It can cost local planning authorities millions a year and can add months to the plan preparation process.
Our new proposed approach uses Office for National Statistic household growth projections, adjusted to reflect local affordability, with a cap on any increases. The result for South Oxfordshire is that the housing need figure is likely to be up to about 200 dwellings per year smaller than currently. That is a big drop and it is one which would give SODC back its five year housing land supply - measure which enables it to have greater control over development. Further, Local Authorities should not be forced to take unmet need from neighbouring authorities, in our case Oxford City, and some districts may be unable to meet their figures because of other restrictions, for example of Green Belt.
Most people appreciate the need for more housing and are willing to accept new homes if they are well-designed, built in the right places, and are planned in consultation the local community. People recognise that their children and grandchildren desperately need affordable homes now and in the future.