Latest planning projects
High on the OPT agenda is the pressure for housing as the Growth Board, local authorities and central government push for ever more development around Oxford. We recognise more housing is needed but how can this be done whilst protecting Oxford’s setting and views. Plans have already been sent to government by the Vale of White Horse (VoWH) and Cherwell District Councils (CDC), with South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) to follow, all including large Green Belt developments. Through the process of independent examination, everyone is able to make their case including the many landowners promoting their sites, which may include the North Oxford Golf Course and Cutteslowe in the Kidlington Gap, Elsfield and Barton to the East and Grenoble Road to the South.
With all the separate Local Plans, which are 'of course' driven by differing priorities and politics, we are currently looking at all the sites for ourselves. We will come to our own independent conclusions about where, if anywhere, we think housing could go.
We want to see innovation and forward thinking about ownership and how people will live and travel in the future. Development should be in the most sustainable locations with good transport links and hospitals, schools, and cemeteries provided for. Where Green Belt land is lost, we ask that ‘permanent’ green space is created working with organisations such as ourselves.
We are also fully aware that this is just the start with suggested growth along the Oxford to Cambridge Corridor waiting in the wings.
Oxford City Council want to build higher and at increased density. With the Oxford Local Plan due for further consultation in the late Summer, they have appointed consultants LDA Design and Headland Archaeology to conduct a High Buildings Study. Time is now tight for such an important shift in a policy that has been successful in protecting the views. Historic England and OPT are keeping close to it and spent an afternoon with them looking at the views, followed by attending two stakeholder workshops. The consultants are sound, but the devil will be in the detail.
Alongside pressure for housing, St Hilda’s, New College and Jesus College are planning towers to make their own mark on the skyline, no longer adhering to long established height limits. New College propose the highest tower at 25m and is more akin to a campanile without the bells. St Hilda’s have planning permission for their tower but we will work with them regarding the conditions imposed on design, materials and lighting. The Jesus College plan has much to contribute to the city, sitting on the corner of Cornmarket and Market Street but its tower is too bulky and will impact on the view from St Michael’s at the Northgate.
We worry the precedent these will set and hope that now the views are so public from the upper terraces of Westgate others will join the campaign to protect our precious skyline.
We were delighted when the proposal for a too large and unsympathetic student housing scheme at Manor Place had its appeal dismissed on heritage grounds. The City Council made their case alongside Magdalen College, whom OPT joined forces with. Holywell Cemetery lay at the heart of discussions and should surely be included on Historic England’s Historic Parks and Gardens Register.
Some other major planning issues taking our time and efforts are:
Oxford Brookes’ major redevelopment of their Headington Hill and Clive Booth sites; Oxford University and the redevelopment of Osney Power Station for the Saïd Business School; and proposed development of sites at Oxpens and Osney Mead which could affect views.
The public consultation for the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme (OFAS) will begin on Thursday 10 May and last for five weeks. Everyone can have their say - see our page on Hinksey Meadow for more information.
Each week we look at planning lists for all the Districts and the City, and are building our relations with the City Conservation team. We regularly attend pre-application discussions with owners and developers, which helps us to give our views early when we are more likely to have influence. We do stick to matters in the public domain, conservation areas and our wonderful ‘villages within the towns’ with the support of our local members. Small or large from railings and side extensions to masterplans and multi-million £ developments we are interested in them all. Oxford is always under pressure to change – OPT continue to do our best, and we are always on the look out for next years OPT Award winners!!