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Don’t miss the chance to have your say!

There are still two weeks left to have your say on major future infrastructure plans for Oxfordshire.

We need you to tell us what you think of the Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy (OxIS) which provides a framework for Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire’s five planning authorities and key partners to deliver a sustainable, clean, and healthy future for everyone in the county up to 2040.

The OxIS consultation is open until 31st August. It is asking the public to give their views on which of the five themes they feel are most important – environment, health, place-shaping, productivity, and connectivity to planning for infrastructure improvements.   We need to know what you think on this and other aspects of the strategy and if there is anything you feel we have missed.

Cllr Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council and Chair of the Oxfordshire Growth Board Infrastructure Advisory Group said: “The new Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy (OxIS) is a key piece of work for the future of the whole county.

“Infrastructure is more than just transport. It includes other vital services such as environment, education, sport and leisure, digital connectivity, energy, and healthcare.

“Please don’t miss the opportunity to take part and have your say.”

You can take part in the consultation by visiting https://www.oxfordshireopenthought.org/oxfordshire-infrastructure-strategy-oxis

The OxIS consultation is taking place alongside a 10-week consultation for the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 – a long-term spatial plan that will set the framework for future planning decisions about housing and infrastructure needs. Subject to final approval by the City and District councils.

There are clear links between the two, with OxIS setting out how we aim to prioritise and deliver against the important infrastructure strand of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, and the public is encouraged to take part in both consultations.

Have your say in our future!

The latest consultation has opened to give people the opportunity to have their say on The Oxfordshire Plan 2050, an innovative strategic planning framework.

Oxfordshire’s county, city and district councils are working in partnership to deliver this bold and ambitious plan that will enable us to realise our vision that in 2050 the people of Oxfordshire are living in sustainable communities with a high quality of life and strong sense of community.

In early 2019, we undertook an initial consultation to ask for views on what the vision, aspirations, objectives and strategy for the Oxfordshire Plan should be.

We considered the responses we received and identified the following key themes to move forward.

  • Addressing climate change
  • Improving environmental quality
  • Creating strong and healthy communities
  • Planning for Sustainable Travel & Connectivity
  • Creating jobs and providing homes

It is vital to know what you think about these themes and for you to tell us your ideas and suggestions. Your responses will be used to help shape and inform the development and implementation of the plan.

Councillor Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council and Chair of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Member Advisory Group, said: “This is an exciting and important step and I am looking forward to hearing what the public have to say about this important document.

“The Oxfordshire Plan is a chance for all our communities to help shape our future and ensure we create opportunities for all while protecting our environment and tackling climate change.

“I hope that over the coming 10 weeks many people will take the opportunity to have their say.”

The consultation opens on Friday 30th July for ten weeks until Friday 8th October at www.oxfordshireopenthought.org

Additional information and documents are also available on this site.

You can also email comments to info@oxfordshireplan.org or post to Oxfordshire Plan 2050, Speedwell House, Speedwell Street, Oxford,

OX1 1NE.

Note to editors:

For further information please contact Michele Smith on 07921 927 881 or email michele.smith@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Your chance to have your say on major future infrastructure plans in Oxfordshire

You can have your say on major future infrastructure plans for Oxfordshire as a consultation opens today (Friday 16 July).

The Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy (OxIS) provides a framework for Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire’s five planning authorities and key partners to establish strategic infrastructure investment priorities as well as potential opportunities for funding and delivery.

The stage 1 report looking at infrastructure priorities to 2040 is now being consulted upon, with Stage 2 of OxIS planned to be carried out later this year to align with the next stage of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050.

In order to rank the different projects, the OxIS scores each against five themes – environment, health, place-shaping, productivity and connectivity – resulting in a seven-point scale to determine its relative ability to fulfil Oxfordshire’s future needs to 2040.

The six-week consultation is asking the public to give their views on which of the five themes they feel are most important, whether any strategic infrastructure schemes have been missed and thoughts on the methodology used in the strategy.

Cllr Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council and Chair of the Oxfordshire Growth Board Infrastructure Advisory Group, said: “The new Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy (OxIS) is a key piece of work that will help us to deliver a sustainable, clean, and healthy future for everyone in the county.

“Infrastructure is more than just transport. It includes other vital services such as education provision, sport and leisure, digital connectivity, energy and healthcare.

“I’d encourage everyone to take part and have their say over the next six weeks .”

You can take part in the consultation by visiting https://www.oxfordshireopenthought.org/oxfordshire-infrastructure-strategy-oxis

The OxIS consultation will be followed by a 10-week consultation for the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 – a long-term spatial plan that will set the framework for future planning decisions about housing and infrastructure needs. Subject to final approval by the City and District councils, the Oxfordshire Plan consultation is scheduled to open on Friday 30 July.

There are clear links between the two, with OxIS setting out how we aim to prioritise and deliver against the important infrastructure strand of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, and the public is encouraged to take part in both consultations.


Construction begins at new Extra Care housing development for older people in Didcot

A groundbreaking ceremony has marked the start of construction of a new development of affordable homes for over 55s in Didcot with funding from the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.

Special guests and representatives met to officially launch the start of work on the new 80 apartment development on land off Greenwood Way at Great Western Park.

The three-storey scheme is being developed by Housing 21, a leading not-for-profit provider of Retirement Living and Extra Care for older people of modest means. It is being built by Deeley Construction.

The development will provide 60 rented apartments and 20 shared ownership apartments for people over the age of 55. On site facilities will include a café/ bistro, hair salon and communal lounge for both residents and local people. Work is set to complete in December 2022, with residents due to start moving in from early 2023.

Debbie Hope, Head of Development at Housing 21, said: “We’re thrilled to have reached this exciting milestone in Didcot. This new development will provide much needed, high quality accommodation to support local older people and their changing needs. People have their own front door in a busy community setting, with 24/7 support from our on-site care team if needed.

“We have designed the buildings around an internal courtyard which provides plenty of important, open green space. The development is also in an excellent location close to the many facilities of Great Western Business Park.” 

Councillor Jenny Hannaby, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “I was delighted to be able to attend the groundbreaking event in Didcot. Extra care housing is something I’ve felt very passionately about and have been promoting in the county for some time now. This exciting new scheme will even provide more support for residents countywide.”

Eleanor Deeley, Deputy Managing Director at Deeley Group, added: “It is great to be working in partnership with Housing 21 again and supporting older people in Didcot. This is set to be a fantastic, state of the art development constructed to the highest standards. 

“We have delivered many Extra Care schemes and are proud to use our expertise to help address the housing needs of an increasingly ageing population.”

Emily Smith, Chair of the Oxfordshire Growth Board, added: “I’m delighted to see the progress of this excellent project which will help improve the lives of our older local people.

“Extra Care housing offers an excellent way for people to stay in their local area and maintain their independence while being able to access around the clock care and support.”

For more information about Housing 21, visit www.housing21.org.uk

Oxfordshire Plan 2050 consultation coming soon

People will soon get the chance to have their say on the latest stage of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050.

The Plan will set the framework for future planning decisions on housing and infrastructure needs while seeking to protect our natural environment, tackle climate change and improve quality of life for all.

By planning collectively this will help all of Oxfordshire’s local authorities ensure that future generations can continue to live locally with access to good jobs while enjoying all the benefits of the county – such as its green spaces and cultural heritage.

The next stage of the Plan-making process will ask people to consider policies that seek to address climate change, improve environmental quality, create strong and healthy communities, plan for sustainable travel and connectivity, and create jobs and provide homes.

It will also look at different approaches for distributing growth across the county to best harness the opportunities it will create.

The consultation document needs to be approved by each of Oxfordshire’s planning authorities and this will take place during July’s round of meetings.

Once approved by all councils, the public consultation will open on Friday 30 July and will be open for ten weeks until Sunday 10 October.

The consultation will be online and further details on how to take part will be revealed nearer the launch date.

Councillor Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council and Chair of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Member Advisory Group, said:

“This consultation document sets out several options and suggestions to help inform planning in Oxfordshire for the next 30 years which I am keen to get as much feedback as possible at this stage in the process.

“The Oxfordshire Plan starts to set out ways in which we can deliver the ‘Oxfordshire Vision’ that Growth Board Partners recently adopted, changing the way approach planning our built environment and infrastructure, in a context of Climate emergency.

“I look forward to hearing what local people think of the developing Oxfordshire 2050 Plan over the summer.”

Those wishing to take part can register for the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 mailing list to ensure they receive a link to the online consultation as soon as it opens. Simply email info@oxfordshireplan.org with “Mailing list” in the subject line.

Future of Oxfordshire rail network mapped out in new study

A new study highlighting future opportunities to expand Oxfordshire’s railway and help deliver economic growth to the region has been published today (Wednesday 30 June).

The Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Study (ORCS) looks in detail at the county’s predicted growth in jobs and housing over the next two decades and presents an industry vision for how the rail network can best support it.

Commissioned and funded jointly by the Department for Transport and the Oxfordshire Growth Board, the study has been produced by Network Rail, with oversight from the Growth Board, in collaboration with industry partners and the County and City Councils, to help develop an overarching strategy for rail development.

The study recommends a number of potential future improvements to support increasing interconnectivity across Oxfordshire. Subject to future funding and viable business cases, these include increasing capacity through Oxford station, reopening the Cowley branch line, plus additional services to Hanborough. It also recommends additional infrastructure to provide greater capacity in and around Didcot, including the proposal for a new station at Wantage/Grove, subject to additional main line infrastructure.

It identifies parts of Oxfordshire’s rail network where demand for train services is expected to increase in the medium (2028) and long-term (2033), giving recommendations for how this additional demand could be met. This includes improving connections between Oxfordshire’s seven growth hubs, as well as improving the city’s connections with Birmingham, Reading and Bristol.

The study cites a predicted 70% increase in services across Oxfordshire, which was calculated prior to the emergence of the COVID pandemic. While the impact of the pandemic on future passenger numbers and demand for services is still emerging, the study’s recommendations are considered critical to supporting growth and connectivity across the county in general over the longer term.

It also identifies increasing capacity at Oxford station as a vital first step to opening up the network for further growth. Last month, the Department for Transport confirmed £69m of funding for the next stage of the Oxford Corridor Capacity Phase 2 project. This latest investment will increase capacity and journey times on this key route, as well as further develop plans for a new platform and western entrance to inform a funding bid later this year. These improvements will enable more trains to serve the station in the future and create more access for passengers.

The study’s recommendations have now been drawn together to form an overarching industry strategy for the county known as ‘Oxfordshire Connect’, which will be used to decide future investment priorities and help seek future funding through the Government’s Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) and third parties. Work is already underway on some of the priority projects that have been identified, with the aim of progressing them to the next stage of business case development.

Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s Wales and Western interim managing director, said: “Oxfordshire plays a central role in the national rail network, linking the south to the midlands for the movement of passengers and freight. This vital study maps out the county’s future to ensure the railway keeps pace with the expected growth and continues to deliver for the communities it serves.”

Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “This is an important study for mapping out the future needs of Oxfordshire’s rail network as we build back better after Covid-19.

“As new jobs are created and new houses are built, and with its central location in our nation’s rail freight lines, Oxfordshire’s railways will continue to play a key role in the wider network.

“Modernising and upgrading our vital transport links is critical to unleashing our economy and spreading opportunity.”

Councillor Duncan Enright, Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We welcome the publication of the Rail Corridor Study, which reinforces the importance of railways as a backbone for travel in Oxfordshire and beyond, with potential for future expansion to provide the transport infrastructure Oxfordshire needs to support planned growth. We already know that investment is planned and this study highlights the need for more to come, including new opportunities like passenger services on the Cowley branch line, a new station at Wantage/Grove, and potential future projects connecting communities across the County to rail services. This will help make public transport convenient, reliable, affordable and a realistic alternative to car journeys for many people – with knock on benefits for family time and household budgets, traffic jams, the environment and air quality.”

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “This report heralds the start of a rail renaissance for Oxford and the rest of the county. It will set our city at the heart of an enhanced network that will open up rail travel to our city centre for many more local people with the creation of the Cowley Branch Line and new stations at Begbroke and Grove. It should make the train the vehicle of choice for getting to Cambridge, Bristol, Birmingham, Heathrow or further afield. And it will also help unlock the West End of Oxford and the creation there of a new mixed housing and innovation district.” 

John Czyrko, GWR’s Head of Network Strategy, said: “We’re delighted to see this study published today. With additional investment in the railway infrastructure as outlined in the report, this will pave the way to improve rail services for our customers and provide the opportunity to offer a wider range of direct, faster journeys from Oxford and stations in the County.”

Richard Allan, Managing Director of Chiltern Railways, said: “Since 2015, Chiltern Railways has led the way in supporting growth in Oxfordshire, doubling the track from Bicester to Oxford and building the new Oxford Parkway station in a £320m investment, providing fast and frequent services between Oxford and London Marylebone. We are pleased to have supported the development of this important study that clearly sets out what investment is required for the railway to continue supporting the economic success of Oxfordshire, and the wider region. This report makes clear that reopening the Cowley branch line should be a priority for investment in the next few years, and we look forward to working with our partners to make the case for continued investment in the railway to support jobs, development, and the economic recovery from Covid-19 in Oxfordshire and beyond.”

A summary of the report is available via https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/our-routes/western/oxfordshire/

Oxfordshire Growth Board elects Michele Mead as new Chair

The Oxfordshire Growth Board has elected Councillor Michele Mead as its new Chair.

Cllr Mead, leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, will take up the position immediately, replacing Councillor Emily Smith, who is leader of Vale of White Horse District Council.

Councillor Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, replaces Cllr Mead as Vice-Chair of the Board.

Cllr Smith said: “It’s been a challenging year, but I am really pleased with how this board has worked together on Oxfordshire-wide agendas – such as the response to Covid-19, the potential threats and opportunities the [Oxford-Cambridge] Arc may bring, and advancing the climate agenda.

“It’s really exciting that our new Environment Subgroup will start to meet from next month and that work to support the establishment of a Local Nature Partnership is progressing at speed.

“I thank all members of this board – local authority and others – for their input and support over the past year and the officers who have supported me. I wish Cllr Mead all the best for her year ahead as Chair.”

The Chairmanship of the Board changes annually along with the host authority for the Board.

The host authority is now West Oxfordshire District Council, having previously been Vale of White Horse District Council.

You can see the full membership of the board here.

Oxfordshire Growth Board to meet in person

The Government has confirmed that it will not be extending temporary regulations that permitted the Growth Board to meet virtually during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Therefore, the next meeting of the Growth Board will be held on 8 June 2021 in person at the Vale of White Horse District Council’s offices at 135 Milton Park, Didcot, OX14 4SB.

The meeting will be conducted in a socially distanced manner in line with Government guidance and we intend to live stream the meeting online.

The next meeting of the Growth Board Scrutiny Panel meeting on 1 June will be held virtually as it is not covered by the same regulations. The agenda for the Growth Board meeting can be found here.

Community-led housing festival highlights Growth Deal work

Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal was delighted to be asked to join an online discussion as part of the Thames-Valley Community-Led Housing Festival.

A variety of presentations and interactive discussions explored topics such as affordable housing, building partnerships, sustainable building, retrofitting, diversity in community-led housing, and the impact of the pandemic on how we live in our homes and neighbourhoods.

The Growth Deal presentation focused on research into scaling-up community-led housing in Oxfordshire conducted for the Growth Deal by the Collaborative Housing Hub.

CLH can include cohousing schemes, housing cooperatives and community land trusts (CLT’s).

The sector, while small, is growing with nearly 7,000 CLT homes to be built or refurbished over the next 5 years (source).

Oxfordshire already has some examples of community-led housing – Stonesfield CLT is one of the oldest community land trusts in the UK, owning and managing 15 homes in West Oxfordshire.

But delivering CLH can be long and complex with a number of challenges to overcome.

The presentation is available here and the report can be accessed here.

All presentations and recordings of the festival will be available in due course on the Collaborative Housing Hub website.