Tetsworth Neighbourhood Development Plan – The Story of its Development
The overwhelmingly positive result of the 6 May 2021 referendum means that the final hurdle to adoption and ‘making’ of the Tetsworth Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) by South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) as part of the South Oxfordshire local Plan 2035 has been successfully negotiated. It is therefore timely to record the milestones and frustrations encountered during its years of development.
During 2016, a Steering Group (SG) of volunteer residents under Tetsworth Parish Council (TPC) oversight launched a project to create the Tetsworth NDP. Preparation of such plans had been encouraged by the Government’s Localism agenda, itself published in 2011. As the third formal tier of planning policy (below the National Planning Policy Framework and Local Plans), NDPs set local policies for future land use in a neighbourhood area. With statutory status, NDPs aim to reflect community wishes on such issues as the extent and location of future growth and the preservation of a community’s character and setting.
By 2017, the neighbourhood area had been defined by the parish boundary and an extensive village questionnaire had provided solid evidence of residents’ views and aspirations for Tetsworth’s future. By 2019, the SG had assembled an even more extensive evidence base to support land use policies which would respond to the vision and objectives that had been developed for the Tetsworth NDP. They prepared a very detailed Character Assessment of defined areas of the village and its surrounding countryside, and drafted Housing Analysis and Sustainability Overview documents for Tetsworth. They also engaged a specialist landscape consultant to conduct a study and report on Key Views towards, within and from the village which merited protection from inappropriate development.
The draft NDP document included policies supporting infill housing development together with required design features, and measures to protect the village’s heritage, green spaces and setting. This was reviewed by a specialist planning consultant ahead of a 6 week period of consultation which started on 21 October 2019. In accordance with Regulation 14 of the NDP regulations, TPC, as the NDP qualifying body, invited statutory consultees, local residents and others with an interest in the area to comment.
Agreed feedback from this consultation was incorporated into a revised version of the NDP alongside preparation of the required Consultation and Basic Conditions Statements. By mid-January 2020, the whole of the Tetsworth NDP document package was ready for submission by TPC to SODC. Submission under Regulation 15 of the NDP regulations occurred on 23 January 2020.
SODC launched the second 6 week publicity period of consultation in accordance with Regulation 16 of the NDP regulations on 25 February 2020. However, just a week or so before the planned closure of this consultation period, SODC advised that it had suspended all consultations in response to the coronavirus pandemic crisis. As a result, the Regulation 16 publicity period was extended until 28 July 2020.
Meanwhile, TPC and the SG agreed to SODC appointing Andrew Ashcroft as the external examiner of the Tetsworth NDP. Working on the submitted Regulation 15 document package, he was able to issue his ‘Note for Clarification’ on 30 July 2020, and TPC and SODC were able to respond by the middle of August.
By this time, the South Oxfordshire Local Plan examination in public was underway with all of its stages to eventual adoption required to be completed by the end of the year. Tetsworth’s NDP was based on the then current SODC Core Strategy and retained policies, but with an eye to the emerging Local Plan. By 11 September 2020, TPC had agreed with SODC to ask our inspector to keep his examination open until the outcome of the Local Plan examination firmed up. This avoided the risk of our having to go through two rounds of post-examination amendment, first against the existing policies and then against new Local Plan policies.
The South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035 was adopted in December 2020 and the NDP examiner’s report was issued on 19 January 2021. After amendments required by the examiner’s recommendations had been incorporated, SODC formally decided on 24 February 2021 that the Tetsworth NDP should progress to referendum. This milestone signalled the NDP acquiring substantial planning weight. The local referendum was held on 6 May 2021 alongside Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner elections. 254 votes were cast for and just 18 against representing 93% in favour on a turnout of 47%.
On formal adoption and ‘making’ by SODC, the Tetsworth NDP now becomes an integral part of the South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2035. As such, it achieves full planning weight and triggers an increase to 25% in TPC’s share of any Community Infrastructure Levy payments made by future housing developers.
Further details of the Tetsworth NDP can be found on the SODC website at: www.southoxon.gov.uk/south-oxfordshire-district-council/planning-and-development/local-plan-and-planning-policies/neighbourhood-plans/emerging-neighbourhood-plans/tetsworth-neighbourhood-plan/