Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has threatened to impose an unprecedented intervention on a district council stalling on the government’s 100,000-home deal for its county.
A letter from Jenrick has gone out to South Oxfordshire District Council saying he considering using powers under the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act to take over the council’s plan preparation – or ask Oxfordshire county council to draw up the plan instead.
Any intervention would be the first time the government has used Section 27 powers to strip a council of its plan-making responsibility.
Former local government secretary Sajid Javid threatened a number of councils with intervention in 2016, but ultimately decided to work with them to bring forward plans, rather than formally intervene.
A spokesperson for South Oxfordshire district council said: “We can confirm the council received a letter from the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government addressed to the leader, Cllr Sue Cooper.
“The council is currently considering its options and will be providing a response in due course by the end of the month as requested.”
In October, the district council withdrew the controversial plan to draw up another potentially delivering fewer homes after he election last May of a joint Liberal Democrat-Green administration.
Both parties had campaigned against the significant green belt releases envisaged under the draft plan, submitted for examination in March.
The deal envisages housing growth in existing green belt sites, and at a level – 1,270 homes per year – far in excess of that required by the government’s standard formula for calculating local housing need.
Six Oxfordshire authorities signed up to become part of a £215m deal with central government in 2017, pledging to ensure the construction of 100,000 homes in the county by 2031.
South Oxfordshire’s withdrawal threat jeopardises an arrangement for which the other authorities have pitched aligned plans.
South Oxfordshire council officers were warned in October that in total more than £500m of central government funding for infrastructure in Oxfordshire could be lost if the housing deal falls as a result of the council’s actions.
The plan is controversial in the district because it envisages housing growth in existing green belt sites, and at a level – 1,270 homes per year – far in excess of that required by the government’s standard formula for calculating local housing need.
In his letter, Jenrick confirms he is considering using Section 27 powers under the 2004 Act to either prepare or revise South Oxfordshire’s local plan himself, or inviting Oxfordshire County – which backs the housing deal – to take control.
South Oxfordshire has until the end of this month to respond.