Victory for West Oxfordshire Council’s net zero plans for one of the most progressive housing developments in UK

In February 2024, rights and climate collective, Rights Community Action, local Oxfordshire campaigners and West Oxfordshire Council welcomed the judgment in the Salt Cross Garden Village Net Zero case,

The ruling from Mrs Justice Lieven, roundly rejects the arguments made by the Michael Gove’s – Levelling Up Minister – legal team; arguments which were also supported by Grosvenor Developments.

Salt Cross Garden Village was set to be a development in West Oxfordshire, which would include more than 2,000 new homes, a new science business park and its own facilities, schools, community resources and employment opportunities. West Oxfordshire District Council’s plans for the development were that it be carbon net-zero and 100% powered by on-site renewables. It listed specifications for building fabric and energy efficiency, as well as measures to address risks of overheating in the village.

However in a report in March 2023, planning inspectors scuppered the project by – stating that the ambitions of the project were too high and ‘prescriptive’, and conflicted with national energy efficiency policy, as outlined in a 2015 ministerial statement. This precedent conflicted with the approach taken by Government planning inspectors in other local areas, including in Bath & North East Somerset in 2022 and Cornwall in early 2023. In both these areas, inspectors considered the ministerial statement to have been overtaken by events.

Mrs Justice Lieven agreed that the inspector’s interpretation of national policy didn’t make sense:

… the Inspectors’ interpretation neither makes sense on the words, seen in their present context, or of the mischief to which it was applying. To interpret the WMS so as to prevent or restrict the ability of the LPA to set a standard higher than Level 4 is plainly wrong in the light of subsequent events. For this reason, the Inspectors erred in law in their approach by finding that Policy 2 of the AAP was inconsistent with the WMS.(para 76)

…the Inspectors error in respect of the WMS infected the entirety of their analysis. If they had properly understood and applied national policy, then they might well have reached a different set of conclusions on Policy 2, whether in part or on its entirety. (para 95)

You can read more about the judgement including quotes on the Rights Community Action website here:

Good Homes Alliance has been collaborating closely with Rights Community Action, as well as other organsiations including TCPA, Bioregional, LETI, and UKGBC, on issues surrounding the WMS, as well as the Future Homes Standard. We are working together on ways to overcome the barriers that are in some cases prohibiting the ambitious planning policies that we need to reach our Net Zero targets.

Campaigners and local community triumph over Government’s attempt to water down net zero housing

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