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

Column 2nd August 2023

More indecision will affect the Local Plan

The column last week was about the inability of David Wilson to design and build a bridge over the Letcombe Brook to allow traffic to flow to the A338 without going through Grove Conservation Area.

This week, there’s another bridge in the news – the proposed new bridge over the Thames south of Oxford which has been eagerly anticipated for years.

The bridge is part of the Didcot Garden Town Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) Scheme. This includes the widening (to a dual carriageway) of the A4130 from the Milton Gate Junction eastwards, including the construction of three roundabouts; a road bridge over the railway; a new road between Didcot and Culham including the construction of three roundabouts, a road bridge over the Appleford railway sidings, a road bridge over the River Thames and a new road between the B4015 and A415 (bypassing Clifton Hampden); and all the associated crossings, footways and cycleways, landscaping, lighting, noise barriers and sustainable drainage systems.

If planning permission were granted, the delivery of the development would be part-funded by a grant of about £240 million from Homes England.

For this application the County Council is both the planning applicant and the body responsible for determining the application and discussed this at a planning committee a couple of weeks ago.

This is an important application because it’s key to all the housing development around Didcot and is likely to be a major part of the new Local Plan being developed jointly by South Oxfordshire and the Vale District Council.

Yet, the Oxfordshire County Council's planning committee rejected the plans.

It has now been called in for review by the government and it could take months (or even years) for a decision to be made.

This will affect the timetable for the joint local plan as a total rethink may be required if these infrastructure plans are rejected.

Of course, this might be a good thing if Mr Gove finally does what he promised and announces the changes to the National Policy Planning Framework, because changes to planning law will also affect the local plan.

This is however very unlikely because last week he announced another consultation on reforming local plans, creating more uncertainty.

It seems that the Government really can’t make decisions, with even the cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee of MPs recently urging ministers to publish the “final package of planning reforms” to give clarity to the industry.

We, as usual, remain stuck in the middle.

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