HAVE YOUR SAY: Public given chance to comment on Oxfordshire plan

Public Given a Chance to Have Their Say on the Strategic Plan for Oxfordshire’s Development Including the Proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway – THE OXFORDSHIRE PLAN 2050


BUT does this plan provide any real assurance that affordable housing will be built in the right places, that sufficient plans for additional infrastructure needed to support these new homes has been properly budgeted for, that the Ox-Cam Expressway is necessary or desirable, or that all the environmental concerns are being systematically addressed?

The five Oxfordshire authorities are producing a Joint Statutory Spatial Plan (JSSP), providing a framework and evidence base to support sustainable growth across the county up to 2050 and are encouraging the public to add their comments (https://oxfordshireplan.inconsult.uk).  The JSSP is designed to deliver new homes and economic development for the county, as well as necessary   supporting infrastructure.  Few could disagree with an overall vision which promotes ‘richness’, ‘secure and good quality housing’, ‘sustainable travel options’, ‘well-skilled, high value jobs’, and communities ‘resilient to climate change’. 

The Plan largely fails to address how these aspirations will be affected by building a huge number of new houses in the county and the influx of many more residents: the JSSP refers to 100,000 homes to be built by 2031-2036 under the present Oxfordshire Growth Deal.  This represents an increase of over 30% on the current housing stock of approximately 280,000.  The JSSP’s aspiration is to deliver additional housing beyond this total, perhaps as many as 200,000 more, in the period to 2050.  The need for these extra houses is hotly debated, and the JSSP doesn’t say where they will be built.  Much of the additional housing is also associated with plans to build the controversial Oxford-Cambridge expressway, on which there has been no consultation with members of the public in Oxfordshire or anywhere else.

All the aspirational language is hiding huge increases in housing stock and population.  Is it justified?  What are the environmental costs?  Has the national context been considered?  Do we want so much development in this part of the country rather than in the midlands or the north?  And has it been properly costed?  The JSSP talks about housing, but more people has to mean more schools and more hospitals, along with everything else that falls under the general heading of ‘infrastructure’.  At the moment there appears to be an £8 billion funding gap in the infrastructure budget to 2040,as shown in the Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy (OXIS) mentioned in the JSSP (https://consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk/consult.ti/OxIS/consultationHome and https://www.oxfordshiregrowthboard.org/projects/oxis-stage-2/). No mention is made in the JSSP of this hole in the budget beyond stating the obvious:  ’However, there is still a funding gap and deliverability issues for many strategic projects and so their delivery is not guaranteed.  A bold, forward thinking Oxfordshire Plan that sets a clear vision for growth is more likely to release opportunities for Government funding…’ 

It is extremely difficult to argue with the utopian vision set out in the plan, but do we actually need the number of houses it advocates and how is the black hole in the infrastructure budget to be filled?  As part of the process, the authorities are committed to ensuring there will be “early, proportionate and meaningful engagement between plan makers and communities, local organisations, businesses, infrastructure providers and statutory bodies.”  The public is invited to visit the website (https://oxfordshireplan.inconsult.uk) where there are links to consultation questionnaires that can be filled in online.  The JSSP also assumes that the Oxford-Cambridge expressway will go ahead.  This is therefore the public’s first real opportunity to challenge this assumption, and the implications for development throughout the county. The deadline for responding is March 25, 2019. 

For more information contact David Rogers 01865 351348 (david.rogers@zoo.ox.ac.uk) or Sarah Foxcroft 01865 358928.