The HIF1 application was decisively rejected by 7-2 votes at Oxordshire County Council’s Planning & Regulation Committee on 18 July. On 25 July (7 days later) the Secretary of State issued a call in letter to set up a Planning Inquiry. This is most unusual for a planning refusal. We have not been able to establish why there was such a long delay in issuing a formal decision notice as the decision to refuse the application was clear and unambiguous. The delay may have given the Secretary of State legal cover to issue a call-in. In the event, Oxfordshire County Council are required to submit a Statement of Case to the Planning Inspector within 6 weeks.
This is an unwelcome development and a direct interference with the local democratic process.
It is unclear who initiated the call-in but inquiries suggest it did not emanate from Oxfordshire County Council.
The County Council has now called an Extraordinary Meeting of the P&R Committee for 21 Aug @ 10:00. https://mycouncil.oxfordshire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=118&MId=7361
No agenda has been published as yet but we have been told the objective is to agree a way forward and legal advice is that there should be full attendance by all Councillors including those who missed the hearing on 17 & 18 July.
The call-in letter from the Secretary of State (Michael Gove) precludes OCC from approving the application. However, the question is what can Councillors do and can they do anything other than support the planning decision of the Council to reject the application?
Can Oxfordshire County Council contradict their own decision and support the HIF1 application in the Statement of Case or must they as we believe provide reasons why it should be rejected by the Planning Inspector? Even if the Planning Inspector rejects the HIF1 application, which has many material flaws, the Secretary of State can overrule his or her recommendation.
Planning experts have expressed concern that the Secretary of State may have exceeded his authority. One planning advisor has requested the Secretary of State to withdraw the call-in on the basis the decision was clear and unequivocal. At this point various options are being assessed.
All of these issues will become clear over the next few weeks and we shall endeavour to keep you informed in relation to the Extraordinary Planning & Regulation Committee meeting on the 21st August and any other developments. In the meantime details regarding the venue for the meeting along with membership are set out below: