If you are a keen follower of politics and planning, particularly in Oxfordshire, you might have noticed that South Oxfordshire District Council agreed its local plan in March.
It’s something that the Skyline Comms team has been watching closely, and in this article we have outlined four things you should be taking away from the decision.
1. It’s not always just about one issue
In May 2019 the Conservatives lost control of South Oxfordshire District Council, among others, during a challenging election cycle.
The Lib Dems had been vocal opponents, alongside the Green Party, to the Local Plan which had been agreed just six months earlier, and their campaigns against this Local Plan had a big impact on the result.
As the Skyline Comms team are politically engaged, we were able to understand the issues really affecting the end result.
With Brexit and the European Elections dominating the headlines, you would be let off for believing that Brexit was the only issue, but in our post-election advice for clients, we were able to provide political insights so that they were able to prepare their strategies for the new realities.
2. Elected on a promise of a new Local Plan
As mentioned above, the coalition that now runs South Oxfordshire District Council, which includes the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, have been fiercely opposed to the Local Plan, and they owe at least part of their election victory to that opposition.
Their promise was of a new Local Plan, but following months of delay and then intervention by the Secretary of State, they were forced to agree to the original plan during the cabinet meeting held in early March.
This shows us that while opposing local plans can be good for political campaigns and aspirations, holding office and implementing ideas is a whole different story. We may see similar stories elsewhere, including with Uttlesford District Council.
It is therefore vital to engage with local administrations throughout the process, and ideally as early as possible.
3. Intervention by the Secretary of State
The fact that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, was willing to use his Section 27 powers to force the council to act, sets out his intentions very early on in his tenure.
He had been exchanging letters with the Leader of the Council from October of last year, which shows his willingness to work with local authorities, but his actions on 3rd March show that he is intent on seeing action. This should provide certainty and enthusiasm for the property industry.
4. Engagement is key throughout the process
While the Lib Dems and Greens had success with their campaigns against the Local Plan, the acceptance of that very same plan puts them in a tough position going forward.
Local residents are sure to be unhappy with their District Council’s plans, so there could be a change of administration come the next set of elections in 2023.
In the meantime though, South Oxfordshire’s current leadership plan to work with officials to implement the plan. It is vital therefore, that any interested parties, particularly developers, should seek to engage at political and community levels as early as possible in order to get the best outcomes for all.
Skyline Comms offers political insights at a local and national level, as well as political and community engagement to support applications through the planning process.
We are also helping to advise clients on non face to face engagement options with communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.
To find out how we could support your political and community campaigns, please email our Managing Director James Hockney on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07958 389713.