WaGCG : Wantage and Grove Campaign Group
Wantage and Grove Campaign Group (WaGCG)

Column 11th May 2022

Is the Government unwilling to deal with sensitive issues?

Last week I mentioned how difficult it can be to get through to any council officers on the telephone and emails can be weeks before an answer is received (if they ever are).

In reading through the planning articles during the week I came across a comment which struck a chord.

The article was about the possible change from Section 106 payments from developers aimed at specific infrastructure projects to a standard levy on all development which the Council could then use for infrastructure.

The comment was
‘The devil will, of course, be in the detail and consultation will follow. However, an interesting side issue is the government’s tardiness in responding to consultations ... Glacial response times could be another effect of the pandemic, but some are suspicious that there is an unwillingness to deal with politically sensitive issues.’

This unwillingness seems common.

We responded to the consultation on the Oxfordshire-Cambridgeshire Arc Spatial Framework written on behalf of the Government back in September last year.

Yet now, six months later, there are still no signs of any results from the consultation.

According to the Arc timetable the next online consultation was due in 'Spring 2022'.

Spring is almost over and summer is here but no information seems to be available as to how this consultation will take place and what it will cover.

We suspect that the Government is quietly dropping the idea of the Arc and moving the money further north as part of the levelling up agenda but it would be nice to know if the requirement for a million new homes in the arc had also vanished.

We heard that Chris Pincher (then Housing Minister), stated last summer that the ambition to build one million homes in the Arc was “not a government target and it is not a government policy”, but the consultation took place after that, so things are a little confusing.

We submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities asking for a copy of any document or report on the results of the online Spatial Framework consultation which we responded to or some explanation for the delay and a date by which we might expect to see the results.

After the allotted 20 working days we received a response stating that our request was vexatious (they had apparently received 150 similar requests) and that they would not respond.

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