The full spectrum of the community must be represented fairly

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I would like to raise awareness over the concerns I have about a key part of the Thame Neighbourhood Planning process.

The findings of the public consultation were articulated into 3 options by consultants (Tibbalds), these essentially encapsulate the public’s view of where development should be located around Thame. In these options, site F is allocated between 250 and 392 houses and there is no housing allocated to site C in any of the options.

How then did we end up with a draft plan showing only 188 houses on Site F and 187 houses on Site C?

The draft plan was determined by a ‘core group’ at a series of closed meetings. This ‘core group’ developed their own 4th alternative option that ‘better met the aspiration for dispersed development’. This alternative option was duly adopted as the preferred plan.

The core group consisted of 12 councillors and 10 invited representatives of Residents’ Associations. Of the 10 invitees, some areas were disproportionately represented and a sizeable chunk of Thame, particularly Central and South East of the town, had no representation at all.

The draft plan clearly is preferred by Thame Town Council and the invited Residents’ Associations and this plan has steered away from the framework established by the original 3 options derived from the public consultation. Neighbourhood Planning has been presented to us as being more democratic than the alternative of South Oxfordshire District Council decision making. For a successful referendum then surely the process has to be open and allow the full spectrum of the community to be represented fairly.

(The minutes to these meetings are published in the Option Development and Testing Consultation Report.)

Roger Cole