Eynsham’s garden village can be net zero after all

Eynsham’s garden village can be net zero after all
Artist's impression of Salt Cross Garden Village. Source: saltcross.co.uk

West Oxfordshire District Council and local Liberal Democrat councillors are celebrating victory over the Government in the High Court this week.

The dispute concerns Salt Cross, the new ‘garden village’ development near Eynsham, which WODC had specified needed to be built to net zero standards. WODC had planned a fossil fuel free development with 100% of consumed energy generated using on site renewable energy sources.

Government planning inspectors forced WODC to strike out the net zero requirement, saying the standards demanded by the scheme were significantly higher than those required by government policy. Instead, they required “a more pragmatic approach for the necessary transition to a low-carbon future”.

Campaign group Rights Community Action took the case to the High Court. They questioned the planning inspectors’ adherence to a 2015 Written Ministerial Statement, which they said was “now out of date”:

RCA say the inspectors were wrong to see the WMS as an expression of national policy without recognising that it has been overtaken by law and policy in the eight years since it was delivered. The campaigners also say the inspectors’ approach to the question of whether there was a sound evidence base to justify the policy was infected by their misinterpretation of national policy.

Mrs Justice Leuven agreed, ruling that planning inspectors had incorrectly applied outdated government policy. Her damning verdict said the inspectors’ view “neither makes sense on the words, seen in their present context, or of the mischief to which it was applying”.

The stage is now set for WODC to reinstate the net zero requirement.

Calum Miller is the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Bicester & Woodstock, the new constituency that will include Salt Cross. He said: “This is a victory for local democracy and common sense. I’m proud that WODC, under Lib Dem leadership, has shown that local councils can put the climate and future generations before profits.”

Salt Cross Garden Village is the largest of several new developments in West Oxfordshire designed to cater for Oxford’s housing need. It will consist of 2,200 new homes, including 50% affordable homes, and is the only one with a nearby rail connection being just two miles from Hanborough station – with a cycle link planned.

The promoters describe it as “The perfect setting for wildlife and people to flourish together. Those who live here will enjoy a good quality of life, with affordable, attractive and energy efficient homes set within leafy, walkable neighbourhoods. With extensive green space including a new biodiverse country park, the village will be supported by a range of facilities including schools, leisure and recreation facilities and local shopping opportunities.”