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District council update – Wednesday 22 July

The new Corporate Plan

We want to know what people think we, as district councils, should focus on over the coming years.

District councillors in South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse are putting together plans for the future of their respective districts and they want everyone living and working here to have their say.

Maybe we should be working with other organisations to help local businesses get back on their feet after lockdown? Helping people live healthier lives? Tackling the climate emergency? Or all three and more?

It’s important that we hear from as many people as possible, so please do provide your comments – to have your say visit South Oxfordshire<https://survey.southandvale.gov.uk/s/Southcorporateplanfeedback/> and Vale of White Horse<https://survey.southandvale.gov.uk/s/Valecorporateplanfeedback/?m=12345abcde> websites – these will run until Thursday 13 August.

We hope to publish and adopt our final Corporate Plans for both councils in the Autumn.

Public speaking at committee meetings

Members of the public are now able to take part in our virtual committee meetings, including the Planning Committee.

The first meetings to include public speaking will be

*   Vale Planning Committee<http://democratic.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=102&MId=2758> – Wednesday 29 July at 5pm
*   South Oxfordshire Planning Committee<http://democratic.southoxon.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=123&MId=2716> – Thursday 5 August at 6pm

For Planning Committees those who have made representations on planning applications must register to address the committee by midday on the last working day before the meeting.  For other committees, you must register by 5pm on the last working day before the meeting.

If you register to take part in a meeting, our Democratic Services team will then provide you with further information, including the joining instructions.

We’re advising everyone who does register to speak to also submit a written statement by midday on the day before the meeting to ensure their contribution can be included should they experience technical difficulties.

New powers for councils to help contain Covid-19 locally

You will no doubt be aware of the government’s announcement on 18 July on new regulations and a framework to help contain a local outbreak of Covid-19.  The framework includes an outline of additional powers for local authorities to help protect residents and businesses against the spread of the virus. These powers will sit with officers of the upper-tier authority, which in our case is Oxfordshire County Council.

We are working jointly with the county council and other Oxfordshire authorities and partners on the plans to introduce any measures that are needed in our districts to help to handle a local outbreak should it occur and our staff would form part of a wider county wide effort should there be a need for a larger, combined response under the direction of the Director of Public Health.

You can find out more information on the new powers in the government’s local guide here<https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/containing-and-managing-local-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreaks/covid-19-contain-framework-a-guide-for-local-decision-makers>.

Leisure Centres and open swimming pools/splash pad areas

There has understandably been some disappointment around our announcement that our outdoor pools and splash pads will not be opening across the districts this year. It was a very difficult decision to make given how popular these facilities are, and perhaps more so this year with the lock down and travel restrictions, but it simply wasn’t going to be possible to open them and protect residents at the same time.

We therefore wanted to share the reasons behind GLL’s decision, which we agreed with:

*   Opening the splash pads and pools would require implementing a Track and Trace System. This is not possible on the splash pads as they are unmanned so anyone developing Covid-19 symptoms could not inform others they may have been in contact with on the day.
*   As the splash pads are unmanned, we’d also be unable to control the numbers of people using them and therefore would not be able to ensure social distancing was observed.
*   It would not be possible to clean the facilities regularly enough to comply with the guidelines to keep the area Covid-safe. There’s also the added risk that the cleaning products required to tackle the virus, which contain substances like bleach, would end up washed into the river, causing significant harm to the environment and wildlife.
*   The water used in the splash pad isn’t chemically treated and therefore heightens the safety risk.
*   The nature of the facilities means water can end up in and out of people’s mouths, which heightens the risks around spreading the virus.
*   The pool would need to be limited to lane swimming only and not for family/fun activities.
*   The pool would be limited to how many people can use it at any one time. Only 16 swimmers could use it each hour compared to 80 normally.
*   It takes between two and four weeks to get an outdoor pool ready in a normal season, which runs until early September.  With the additional requirements to comply with the government’s Covid-19 guidance there would be very little of the season left to justify operating.

Greater support to help people live independently

We have made it easier for people with disabilities, or who are vulnerable, to receive housing assistance grants and loans. This support is to help make their homes safer and more comfortable, to support them to live independently and to reduce hospital admissions.

While we’ve always provided a grants and loans service for vulnerable people to help their homes better suit their needs, our new Housing Assistance Grants and Loans policy has extended what’s on offer.

The maximum grant available has increased from £30,000 to £50,000 and a grant is also now available for people living with dementia.  In addition, we are working to improve the service in order to reduce the waiting times for work to be carried out.

The first step for anybody who wants to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant is to contact an Occupational Therapist to see if they’re eligible. For more information on applying for grants and loans please see our South<http://www.southoxon.gov.uk/news/2020/2020-07/new-housing-grants-policy-makes-it-easier-those-need-help-their-homes> and Vale<http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/services-and-advice/housing/managing-your-home/support-live-independently/disabled-facilities-grant> dedicated website page.

South Oxfordshire Local Plan examination update

More than 800 people logged on to watch the first week of the public examination of the emerging South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2034, with over 150 people subscribing to watch the sessions regularly.

The matters discussed in week one included: Housing requirement, Housing trajectory and housing supply, Housing for everyone, and Design and Density.

Week two has so far focussed on Spatial Strategy and the Green Belt.  The rest of the agenda for this week is:

*   Thursday 23 July

*   10am – Matter 7: Infrastructure (strategic);

*   2pm – Matter 8: Climate change mitigation.

*   Friday 24 July
*   Matter 9: Employment development; Inspector’s announcements

You can view the live feed online by visiting the examination hearing’s YouTube page<https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXmXwMU1kePtWsCuvxeQD8g>.

For further information please visit – southoxon.gov.uk/examination<http://www.southoxon.gov.uk/examination>.