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Local development issues

Oxford Friends of the Earth is a thriving and effective local group that has been active for over 40 years. Our purpose is to work together to promote a healthy and sustainable environment

Oxfordshire faces extreme development pressures from new housing and related development. Existing plans include 100,000 new homes, while plans such as the ‘Oxford – Cambridge Arc’ would massively increase that figure.

Update: October 2021 There was a recent consultation on the Oxfordshire 2050 Plan. 

[Our response can be seen by clicking here.]

At the core of the Plan is the Oxfordshire Growth Needs Assessment whch has been used to predict how many homes will be needed in Oxfordshire. We other groups and believe that this assessment process is fundamentally flawed. We are calling for an independent peer review before any major decisions are made about the Oxfordshire 2050 plan.  A Q&A document about the OGNA produced by the Need Not Greed coalition is one our website  – click here.

Please use this to write to your councillors and ask them to support the call for a full review.

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Slides from a meeting on August 11th that set out the key issues in Oxfordshire 2050 and the Oxford City Local Plan 2040 can be downloaded here:

https://www.oxfoe.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/ox2050-introduction.pdf

Key points and links to relevant documents are below:

There is:

The Oxfordshire Plan 2050

This is the new strategic planning framework for the whole county which will sit above Local Plans. Consultation started July 30th and runs to 8th October. This will ‘set the scene’ for some major decisions on new housing and development. One positive aspect is that the draft suggests a policy that all new homes should be zero carbon – just what Oxford FoE have been campaigning for over the last 18 months. ‘Addressing climate change’  is a top priority – a big chance from an initial draft last year – but how that happens will be critical.

The online material is a little confusing: this page aims to help you find what you need. To understand this you may want to start at: https://oxfordshireplan.org/  – an introductory page and a short video.

Then there is: https://www.oxfordshireopenthought.org/2050-plan-an-introduction – the ‘Open Thought’ pages are for the consultation process.  This page has a lengthy introduction and has the contents of the full discussion document.  It sets out the five ‘themes’ for the plan (to access the plan see below):

  •     Addressing climate change (page 24)
  •     Improving environmental quality (page 47)
  •     Creating strong and healthy communities (page 82)
  •     Planning for sustainable travel and connectivity (page 92)
  •     Creating jobs and providing homes (page 105)

These themes, and the ‘Strategic Vision’ (https://www.oxfordshireopenthought.org/strategic-vision ) are broadly progressive, and are saying many of the right things, but the Vision avoids many of the hard choices that need to be faced.

One major focus for debate will be the section on the ‘Spatial Strategy Options’.
They are consulting on five options:

  1. Focus on opportunities at larger settlements and planned growth locations.
  2. Focus on Oxford-led growth.
  3. Focus on opportunities in sustainable transport corridors & at strategic transport hubs.
  4. Focus on strengthening business locations.
  5. Focus on supporting rural communities.

The actual size of the growth – broadly in terms of new homes – is not really covered in this document. Existing plans already talk about 100,000 new homes, although the number needed to meet local needs is much lower.  There are also issues about how we deliver genuinely affordable homes – Oxford is the least affordable city in the UK.

The options above all have issues. Oxford-led growth would likely impact on the green belt but new housing would be closer to facilities and probably have better transport links.  A focus on rural villages would mean more people there which could help improve local services but might transform the character of the villages. New settlements in rural areas would reduce the pressure on Oxford but might well create little more than car-dependent commuter estates.  And all this needs to be in the context of creating a zero-carbon County and restoring our natural environment.  What do we think?   

The Plan documents

The actual Plan is here: https://www.oxfordshireopenthought.org/oxfordshire-plan  This page offers links – by clicking on the photos – to the various theme sections.

Only right down the bottom is the opportunity to ‘download full copy of the Consultation document either as a plain pdf here or a designed pdf here.’   Be aware that the designed PDF is a 170 page document!  The Plain PDF is a mere 159 pages. The page number for the five themes above are those in the plain PDF.

The Plain PDF is also what you get if you look to download the “full text of the Oxfordshire Plan Regulation 18 Part 2 consultation document” which is offered at the same place.

There is a 3 page summary leaflet – a good place to start:

https://assets.website-files.com/5f9978a71f4d1719b3f50dfb/610300a1f732d66b24538b23_Oxfordshire%20Plan%20leaflet-compressed.pdf

Clicking on the photos for each section on the ‘oxfordshire-plan’ page opens sections like this – which may be easier than going for the whole document:

https://www.oxfordshireopenthought.org/addressing-climate-change

https://www.oxfordshireopenthought.org/spatial-strategy-options

Finally…..

You can respond here:  https://www.oxfordshireopenthought.org/consultation-response-form

This asks for your details and then offers you an open response box.

 

The ‘Vision’ for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc

The ‘Arc’ proposals talk about a million new homes between Oxford and Cambridge. The proposals are flawed in many ways and statements about environmental benefit and zero carbon seem absurdly optimistic. This consultation runs to Oct. 12th: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/creating-a-vision-for-the-oxford-cambridge-arc

We will be working with groups such as Oxford CPRE, Stop the ARC (STARC, formerly No Expressway Group), Oxford Civic Society (who don’t all agree) on our responses to the Arc prorposals. We welcome your inputs.

Oxford City Council new ‘Local Plan 2040’

This will ‘set out the planning strategy for meeting the needs of the city’ and the first initial consultation is happening now. This closes August 25th so we need to discuss this soon! It is quite general at thios stage. https://www.oxford.gov.uk/info/20067/planning_policy/1460/oxford_local_plan_2040

Previous work

We have worked with a local planning consultancy to develop a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for local councils seeking to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies.
This is available here: Climate Emergency SPD Oct 2020

In 2017 we ran a workshop on ‘Planning as if the climate mattered’ and we cooperate with bodies including Oxfordshire CPRE and Oxford Civic Society.