Prospective new leader of West Oxfordshire District Council prioritises ‘change in a big way’

Asked what his priority would be should that likely outcome come to pass, Cllr Graham replied: “We have to get the local plan right this time...things are going to change in a big way”

By Andy Mitchell, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 9th May 2022, 4:52 pm
The prospective new leader of West Oxfordshire District Council is to prioritise “change in a big way” to its local plan – despite his political opponent warning against the move.

The prospective new leader of West Oxfordshire District Council is to prioritise “change in a big way” to its local plan – despite his political opponent warning against the move.

Councillor Andy Graham, leader of the Liberal Democrats in West Oxfordshire, seems set to front a new cabinet at Woodgreen after the Conservatives lost control in last week’s council elections.

The Tories lost seven out of the 11 seats they were defending this year – they were within five votes of losing another two – to surrender the majority they had held for more than two decades.

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The Conservatives still hold more seats – 20 – than any other party but Cllr Graham confirmed on the night that his group, the next largest party with 15 seats, would not work with the Tories and that a Liberal-led pact with Labour and the Green Party is on the cards.

Asked what his priority would be should that likely outcome come to pass, Cllr Graham replied: “We have to get the local plan right this time.

“The plan will actually engage the local communities and I am looking forward to developing a master plan that those communities have a real say in rather than having a developer’s master plan, something we have had over a number of years.

“Things are going to change in a big way.”

Current leader and Conservative councillor Michele Mead fears any deviation from the current plan could see the region lose control of its own destiny on housing.

National regulations require councils to have what is called a five-year housing land supply. That means the authority must be able to show it can provide sufficient space for the number of new homes it needs to build for at least the next five years.

If it falls behind, there will be a “presumption in favour” of developers bringing forward proposals for plots that are not allocated within the local plan, provided they are deemed to be “sustainable”.

“I worry about the local plan,” said Cllr Mead.

“If that fails we will have speculative development all over the district. That is not what we want and it is not what the residents want.

“The local plan is really good and robust, it took a long time to get to where it is. Yes, it does need a review because times and places change but if they started to say they didn’t want certain houses being built in certain places that would absolutely open it up to housing being built all over the district.

“I also worry about our budget.”

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