Headington Neighbourhood Forum’s Plan was made (i.e. approved) on 20th July 2017 and its Planning Policies are now being used, along with the City’s planning policies, to determine planning applications within the Plan’s area. In addition to the Planning Policies, the Plan included several Community Policies, the last of which is concerned with the formation of a successor to the Forum. That Policy, FC1, states:
“The Neighbourhood Forum will plan and implement arrangements to create a successor body to oversee the implementation of the plan throughout the plan period.
The vision and aims of the Plan are will be achieved through a range of policies and projects. To secure the effective implementation of policies and projects following the Referendum will require that a successor body to the Forum is put in place at that stage. Such a body would monitor the implementation of the planning policies. It
would also initiate and manage the implementation of the community policies and projects by working with the local authorities and other stakeholders and the Headington community.
As the Plan is a living document there will be the need to regularly consult local people on implementation issues such as the development of new projects. There is a range of options for the form of the successor body, for example a charitable body such as a community trust, or a statutory body such as a community council similar to a parish council.
HNF has agreed to set up a working group to research and progress the development of a successor body.”
So the establishment of a Community Council to carry forward the work of the Headington Neighbourhood Forum and to implement the policies and projects of the Neighbourhood Plan has been a key policy of the Plan from the outset. The Community Council would be identical to a Parish Council with statutory authority.
Therefore, the Steering Committee, with the help of Headington Action, applied to the City Council to undertake the required first step to establish a Community Council, namely a Governance Review.
On 13th February 2019 the City Council unanimously agreed to carry out a review, which is expected to take place from April to June. This is essentially a consultation exercise to confirm that a Community Council would be suitable for Headington. If the outcome of the governance review is favourable elections for the Council would be held in May 2020. The area will need to be divided into a small number of community/parish wards, probably about four, with a small number of community councillors elected from each ward, possibly four per ward. The actual warding and number of councillors is to be determined by the City Council, with input from the Forum.
The benefits of a Community Council include a statutory right to be consulted on planning applications with greater influence on the future development of Headington and it would also protect and implement the Neighbourhood Plan and strengthen the identity of Headington. It would raise money for local projects through a small additional charge on the annual Council tax and it would provide a voice for Headington and encourage local people to participate in decisions about our future.
Oxford currently has four Parish Councils: Blackbird Leys, Littlemore, Old Marston, Risinghurst & Sandhills. As mentioned above, each Parish Council is funded by a small additional charge to the Council Tax.
We do hope members of the Forum will take part in the consultation exercise. Details will be set out in a pamphlet which will be delivered to all households in Headington in April.