An Oxfordshire environmental pressure group hopes its battle to block thousands of new homes on green belt will inspire other campaigners around the UK.
Bioabundance Community Interest Company is challenging South Oxfordshire District Council and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, who it says are forcing through a damaging Local Development Plan – the first time a local plan has ever been challenged on the grounds of the climate and ecological crisis.
The green light to build 23,550 homes by 2034 was given in a divided vote by the council in December; nine councillors who abstained said it was on the basis that, following “massive intervention” by Jenrick, the vote wasn’t a free vote, it was a choice between adopting the local plan or having it thrust upon them.
The Lib Dem-Green coalition had tried to reverse the former conservative council’s plans for the area, however, Bioabundance says that the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government put severe pressure on the council and threatened to withhold promised infrastructure funding if they didn’t adopt the local plan.
Challenging the vote
It’s now challenging the vote, claiming that it was unlawful, that the planning inspector’s calculations were based on incorrect housing numbers and it also believes councillors didn’t pay enough attention to the effect of large housing numbers on climate change.
Dr Sue Roberts, director of Bioabundance, says the local plan grossly over-provides for housing.
“Space is allocated for over 30,000 homes, four times the number that can even be filled, according to data from the Office for National Statistics,” she says.
“This pioneering action is our last chance to put our environment before housebuilder profit in South Oxfordshire.”
www.bioabundance.org.uk hopes to raise £10,000 to cover its campaigning costs at https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/southoxonlocalplan/