October: Can we have it all? The Oxford Local Plan

October: Can we have it all? The Oxford Local Plan

Oxford is a place of aspiration and dreams, and so to the draft Oxford Local Plan, which is out for public consultation 1 November – 13 December is important.  It gives a vision for our City to 2036 setting out suggested parameters for Oxford’s future growth and development. 

It has been written by experienced city council planners, and they were set no easy task.  The Foreword explains how Government expects Oxford to make a significant contribution to the national economy, two Universities want support for global research, and the City’s Councillors want a leading environmentally sustainable city, to tackle inequalities of opportunity, and, of course, to build houses.

Oxford continuing to be a pleasant place to live is paramount, and for the many who would wish to live here, that relies on the provision of good quality affordable housing, mixed and balanced communities with flexible accommodation to meet the needs of existing and future residents.  It all makes easy reading, as it talks of well-designed homes with good spaces, inside and out, physically accessible for all, which can provide for the health and wellbeing of all its residents. 

Elsewhere, the Plan goes on to talk about the needs and aspirations for economic development, student housing, traffic and tourism, alongside protection and enhancement of green spaces, our built heritage, the views, and everything in between.  As the chapter on housing describes, they have ‘left no stone unturned’. 

It is not just ideas, it also speaks of delivery, and how to fund the necessary infrastructure to support growth.  This growth and development sits alongside a commitment to ‘no net loss in biodiversity’, ‘to protect(ing) the Green Belt’, the creation of good quality local environments, addressing air quality, embracing renewable energy and low carbon technology, so using our limited resources wisely.     

Can we have it all?  Can Oxford take the growth envisaged within, without accepting that there will some damage to it, as it advocates houses on the green fields at Marston or further development in the Flood Plain at Osney Mead.  What will increased densities and heights on existing buildings look like for those communities, and what will be the cumulative effect of relaxing a building height limit on the fragile views of the dreaming spires which have benefited from this protection for the past 50 years?  In the end it will be all about a balance, and what weight one policy is given against another, but for now it is the chance for all of us to have our say.

I look forward to OPT's chance to look in detail, using our deep knowledge of Oxford to get behind the words of this two hundred page ‘blueprint’, and to ensure that the City’s heritage, and its diverse and distinctive local characters are intertwined throughout.  I hope we will find good things about protecting and improving Oxford’s green setting and heritage, its open spaces and waterways, and ways of giving the public better access to them, and that we can be satisfied that they will be given proper weight when deciding on future changes.   

Article written for The Oxford Times 25th October 2018.

OPT is one voice and we think it is important that everyone has their say.  In order to help unlock the 200+ pages for you we have arranged a meeting on Monday 12 November 5.30pm – 7.30pm at the Key Learning Centre at Oxford Castle.  This is a free event but it would be helpful if you would book online so that we have an idea of numbers. https://www.oxfordpreservation.org.uk/events/oxford-local-plan-opt-members-briefing-mon-12-nov-530pm 

Here is the link to the Draft Local Plan document https://www.oxford.gov.uk/localplan  Please don’t be daunted.