An independent Examiner has recommended that the Neighbourhood Plan for Wantage in the Oxfordshire district of Vale of White Horse does not proceed to referendum.
The Examiner concluded that the Neighbourhood Plan does not meet the ‘Basic Conditions’ set out in the Localism Act 2011. These conditions include that the making of the Neighbourhood Plan must:
- Have regard to National Policy and Guidance issued by the Secretary of State;
- Be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the Development Plan; and
- Contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.
In his report, the Examiner states that the Plan envisages ‘limited opportunities for housing’ while placing ‘extensive protectionist policies’ on community and environmental assets in the area; on many occasions without sufficiently robust evidence to do so. The examiner recommends deletion of three policies in the Neighbourhood Plan which seek to designate a ‘Green Infrastructure Network’ and Local Green Spaces.
The Examiner also recommends deletion of a further three out of fourteen policies proposed in the Neighbourhood Plan, on the basis that there is a lack of sufficient evidence to support them. This includes policies which seek to establish a ‘spatial plan’ for Wantage and to allocate development in areas of the town centre.
The Examiner’s recommendations mean that the Town Council will have to make substantial revisions to the Plan, and re-consult on a revised Neighbourhood Plan in due course.
Lois Partridge, Senior Planner at Carter Jonas, commented that this outcome reflects the fact that the Wantage Neighbourhood Plan was not aligned with the strategic needs and priorities of the local area, as required by the NPPF. The submitted Neighbourhood Plan did not provide the flexibility to make provision for future housing growth in the town, despite the significant pressure for higher housing numbers in the Vale of White Horse District, to meet both the District’s objectively assessed housing needs, and its allocation of the Oxford unmet housing need.
The full submitted Plan and Examiner’s Report can be read here