“A unique opportunity” – Oxfordshire Growth Board welcomes Homes England’s strong commitment to supporting Oxfordshire

The Oxfordshire Growth Board has welcomed the continued and ongoing support from Homes England to achieve their shared ambitions in Oxfordshire, which include the delivery of good quality, sustainable homes where residents need them most, along with the significant improvement of local infrastructure.

Homes England Deputy Chief Executive, Tom Walker said: “Homes England is working closely with local partners across the county and with government in recognition that Oxfordshire is a priority place for new homes. We are committed to helping them deliver the housing they need – using our land, money and powers to increase the pace, scale and quality of delivery, and I am delighted to be in Oxfordshire to talk to council leaders and core partners about their long-term plans.”

Mr Walker gave a presentation to the Oxfordshire Growth Board’s public meeting in Didcot on 29 January in which he spoke of the unique opportunity the partnership between Homes England and the Oxfordshire Growth Board provides for the future of the county. He explained the government agency’s mission to ensure more homes are built in areas of greatest need, to improve affordability and to make it sustainable by creating a more resilient and diverse housing market.

During his presentation, Mr Walker acknowledged the good progress already made in Oxfordshire and referred to the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, and how the growth board’s commitment is helping to unlock long-term pipeline for investment in the county.

Cllr Jane Murphy, Chairman of the Oxfordshire Growth Board, said: “We are very pleased with the positive, collaborative way in which Homes England are approaching their work in Oxfordshire. It’s good news for all of our residents to have a government agency so committed to working closely with our local authorities to ensure the right homes are delivered where and when they’re needed most, as well as the infrastructure needed to support them. The Growth Board is just as determined to deliver on our commitments to delivering much-needed housing and infrastructure in Oxfordshire.”

Growth Board Housing & Growth Deal infrastructure programme to unlock over £500 million of investment across Oxfordshire

The Oxfordshire Growth Board has published details of the infrastructure projects that will be supported by funding across the five years of the Oxfordshire Housing & Growth Deal, unlocking nearly £500 million of investment that will include contributions from developers.

The £215 million Deal, agreed with Government earlier this year, includes £30 million a year for five years to help accelerate transport infrastructure projects including road, rail, cycle routes and footpaths as well social infrastructure including new schools. The £150 million Growth Deal infrastructure funding has now been earmarked for specific projects. By improving infrastructure in specific locations across the county where it is most needed, this will help ensure that new homes are delivered in a planned and sustainable way.

The Growth Board has endorsed funding for 43 projects, with starting dates for each phased over the five year period. These range from new slip roads to improve access to Carterton from the A40, and a relief road for Watlington; to a cycle and pedestrian bridge over the A34 at the Milton Interchange and a new primary school in Shrivenham.

Forward funding projects through the Growth Deal also helps unlock further funds that are paid by developers as new homes are built, to support the completion of the various infrastructure schemes. This funding is typically made in the form of Community Infrastructure Levy or Section 106 payments and will be captured in a new countywide Infrastructure Fund. Therefore, the total value of the schemes to be unlocked by the five year infrastructure programme is significantly higher than the initial £150 million Growth Deal contribution – at over £500 million, excluding the costs of the major rail projects which are still to be confirmed.

A further £300 million of investment from the Government’s Housing and Infrastructure Fund (HIF) is awaiting final approval. This will fund transport infrastructure needed to support the delivery of Didcot Garden Town and the Oxfordshire Cotswolds Garden Village, near Eynsham.

There are some changes to the list of projects published in March that commence in Year 1 of the Deal – the current financial year – largely due to third party delays, for example developers delayed in agreeing the scope of schemes with other third parties. These projects have been moved to delivery during Years 2-5 of the Deal. In addition, one scheme – the A40 Smart Corridor improvements, with the creation of a bus lane from Duke’s Cut Canal Bridge to the planned Eynsham Park & Ride – is now part of the HIF bid for the A40 Smart Corridor which is out for consultation on 30 Novermber 2018. .

New projects for Year 1 now include feasibility and design work for relief roads for Watlington and Benson; a detailed study with Network Rail to help deliver the Cowley Branch Line; as well as a £5 million contribution to the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme.

All of the projects receiving funding are included in District and City Council Local Plans and in the Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy, published in 2017, which sets out the county’s infrastructure priorities. Delivery of the programme of work is overseen by the Growth Board’s Infrastructure Advisory Sub-Group, comprising elected representatives at cabinet level from each of Oxfordshire’s six councils.

The list of Growth Deal infrastructure projects is available on the Oxfordshire Growth Board website here.

Councillor Jane Murphy, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council and Chair of the Oxfordshire Growth Board, said:

“Getting infrastructure right is one or our greatest responsibilities as local councils. This is a list of much-needed projects that will have a meaningful and positive effect on the quality of life for our residents. This is at the heart of what we are doing with the Growth Deal, and I think this demonstrates how we’re able to tackle these challenges effectively across the whole of Oxfordshire better than we have ever been able to do so before.”

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council and Chair of the Growth Board Infrastructure Advisory Sub-Group, said:

“This is a major public and private sector investment in Oxfordshire that will create much-needed homes with better transport links, including walking and cycling. As important, is the investment in schools and other infrastructure that Oxfordshire’s communities need to thrive. I want to foster a sense of place in existing and new communities, while supporting the economic growth we need to ensure a good quality of life in the future.”

The Oxfordshire Growth Board comprises the six Oxfordshire councils: Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council. Non-voting members include OxLEP, the universities, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Homes England and the Environment Agency.

OGB Infrastructure Projects List

Oxfordshire Growth Board statement on South Oxfordshire Local Plan

The Growth Board welcomes the further work that South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) is undertaking to reconsider sites for development in support of its Local Plan.

The Growth Board recommends SODC, the Local Planning Authority:

  • Considers sites that address Oxfordshire’s housing need, including the need for housing in sustainable locations and in support of people who work or use services in Oxford City;
  • Brings forward sites that are viable and have sufficient confidence of delivery to pass through inspection whilst securing preparation for sites that might viable in the longer term;
  • Closely examines the options that would allow them to bring forward a viable plan in the timescales set by the Deal

If SODC is able to find a way to achieve this, the Growth Board would want to use the flexibility provided to use Deal investment, combined with an effective Local Plan for South Oxfordshire to deliver the Government’s agenda for increased housing delivery.

The Oxfordshire Growth Board comprises the six Oxfordshire councils: Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council. Non-voting members include OxLEP, the universities, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Homes England and the Environment Agency.