District Council report Feb 2021

Published: 11 February 2021

South Oxfordshire District Council – Monthly Report for February 2021

Cllr Caroline Newton


Covid rates across Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire cases of Covid-19 are continuing to decrease, but at a much slower rate than they increased. These numbers are still significantly higher than they were in December.

The latest weekly Covid-19 rate for South Oxfordshire in 142.2 cases per 100,000 population, and 151.5 in the Vale.

With our hospitals remaining under tremendous pressure the message continues to be - cases may be dropping but we must still stay vigilant.

COVID Grants

Christmas Support Payments (Wet-led pubs) – deadline extended!

The application deadline for the Christmas Support Payment for wet-led pubs that have been severely impacted over the Christmas period due to temporary local restrictions has been extended by a month to 28 February 2021. This one-off grant provides £1,000 to pubs that receive less than 50 per cent of their income from food sales.

Please encourage businesses in your town or parish who have not yet applied to do so via www.svbs.co.uk

Lockdown and Tier 4 grants update

We have already paid out more than £4.6million (South) to rate-paying businesses that were forced to close during the Tier 4 restrictions at the end of last year, and as a result of the current national lockdown.

Please encourage all local businesses to sign up for our business newsletter at www.svbs.co.uk to receive the latest information on all the support available to them.

Council tax reminders

We are very aware that many people living in our district have new or increased financial worries because they’ve lost work or income due to the Coronavirus pandemic. For some this may mean that they are struggling to keep up with their council tax payments.

The government has not suspended council tax during the pandemic, so it still needs to be paid. We will therefore be writing once again to those people who have missed all, or part of, a recent payment to remind them of the support and options available to them and importantly to urge them to contact our council tax team as soon as possible to discuss their situation and agree a way forward.

You can see the full details of the help that’s available and what we are saying to people on the attached notice. But above all, if people have any concerns or questions, they should contact our council tax team as soon as possible via sodc.counciltax@secure.capita.co.uk or 0345 302 2313.

For more information, please visit southoxon.gov.uk/council tax.


Flooding and new developments

In light of the current flooding situation, and because we are aware that it often comes up as a potential issue on new developments, SODC officers have recently shared the following guidance on how flood risk is treated in the planning process.

“When we allocate land for development in our Local Plans and when town and parish councils do so in their Neighbourhood Plans, we consider flood risk through Strategic Flood Risk Assessments. We only allocate land for development where it is outside areas of high flood risk or we can secure appropriate flood protection or mitigation measures.

We have planning policies in our Plans that we use to assess planning applications. The assessment of planning applications which may be in a flood risk area includes the consideration of a Flood Risk Assessment. This assessment sets out how the development would have safe access during a potential flood, explains how it would not increase flood risk elsewhere, and can propose necessary mitigation measures. If such measures are required in connection with new developments, we will usually make them a condition of planning permission, or through a Section 106 legal agreement.

Applications which may be in a flood risk area are normally assessed by Thames Water, the Environment Agency, the flood risk authority (Oxfordshire County Council) and our own professional qualified draining engineers.

In all new developments we look for sustainable means to deal with surface water run off (from roofs and hard surfaces) which is normally managed and discharged within the development site.”

The risk of flooding is something that rightly exercises residents when plans for large new developments come forward. I will continue to do what I can to ensure that we can all be confident that mitigation and alleviation etc are fully accounted for during the planning and enforcement processes.

Local Plan 2034

You will have seen in the press that the Local Plan is being challenged in the High Court by a local company. SODC has given the following statement:

“We can confirm we’ve received a challenge by Bioabundance to the Council’s decision to adopt the Local Plan 2035. We will be responding accordingly but we can’t comment further at this stage as this is a legal matter.”

Money for Newt Conservation

Developments in South Oxfordshire and the Vale have generated £240,000 over three years for great crested newt habitats.

Great crested newts are a European protected species. The councils have a Natural England licence allowing us to authorise developers to undertake work that may impact the newts in exchange for the developer investing in off-site compensation schemes, monitoring and long-term habitat management.

So far 5 developments have been authorised in South Oxfordshire (and 7 in the Vale) which has resulted in 23 high quality great crested newt ponds being created as well as the creation of 116 hectares of terrestrial habitat.

If you have any questions about these schemes, please contact Eleanor Bunn in the Countryside Team.

Car Parks

SODC Cabinet have agreed to make the following changes to car parking charges across the District:

• Align all charging car parks in the centre of market towns of Didcot, Henley, Wallingford and Thame, as well as Goring, to all have up to one hour of free parking between the charging hours, and to amend charging hours to 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday in all car parks where a charge is made (including introducing free parking for up to one hour in Kings Road and Greys Road car parks, Henley), with the exception of Goldsmiths Lane car park in Wallingford which has up to two hours no charge, and to carry out annual usage surveys;

• Change the current Mondays to Saturdays permitted parking period to charge on Sundays from 10am to 5pm in all car parks, including one hour free, with the exception of Goldsmiths Lane car park in Wallingford;

• Introduce half priced parking permits for electric vehicles only, in line with those vehicles eligible for a discount from the London Congestion Charge (with the exception of Goldsmiths Lane car park in Wallingford);

• Introduce limited waiting in High Street car park, Chinnor;

• Introduce enforcement at charging points for electric vehicles;

Garden Waste

Because of staff shortages caused by COVID, Biffa is still currently unable to resume garden waste collections. We may have good news for you next week, although this is dependent on us having fewer staff shortages than we currently have.

In the meantime, we’ll provide a weekly update on our website.

Anyone for (table) tennis?

With an eye on getting the public up and active once lockdown is over, we're working with Table Tennis England to promote some funding available to town and parish councils.

If you think your local towns or parishes would benefit, why not put them in touch with our Leisure Development Officer, who can help them apply.

Table Tennis England will match-fund town and parish council investment in tables and equipment in locations that already have table tennis clubs, organised activities, or where they can demonstrate a community need. Contact Cath Dale via email or call 07801 203551.