What is the Oxford Local Plan 2016-2036?
The Local Plan is created by Oxford City council and sets out the council’s vision of what it wants Oxford to be in the future, how it should look and feel, and what developments are needed to reach this vision.
In 2016, Oxford City council asked for comments on its ideas, and used feedback to set out a range of policy options. The Oxford Local Plan 2036 Preferred Options document sets out its proposed approaches to a range of issues.
The council undertook a consultation exercise, asking for feedback on the Oxford Local Plan 2036 Preferred Options from 30 June to 25 August 2017.
The Oxfordshire Green Party reviewed the Preferred Options report carefully and thoroughly, and set out its response in this file.
We believe there is a fundamental contradiction at the heart of the document: the strategy is to “support Oxford’s role as a fast‐growing city ”, yet the strategy which forms the actual content of the document is all about trying to cope with the increasingly insoluble problems (such as increased social inequality fuelled by an overheating housing market) that such growth will inevitably create — problems which, unless addressed, will inevitably worsen to 2036 (unless the doomsayers about the impact of Brexit prove right and Oxford’s economy suffers).
We object to the council’s assumption here that Oxford City must inevitably achieve increasing economic growth and be a fast‐growing city. We believe that it is clear that the present trajectory from now to 2036 is unsustainable. The city cannot “grow AND function sustainably”. We recognise and welcome the fact that the Preferred Options do attempt to tackle the problem that growth/expansion presents for Oxford on many fronts. The actual proposals seem to recognise the problem and seek to address it. But as a result these ‘pro‐growth’ statements in the Preferred Options report stand out as anomalies, contradicting the overall thrust.
Clearly, as technology advances some economic activity will dry up and will need to be replaced by new types of industry, so new growth in this sense is essential in order to maintain full employment. However, the scope for twenty years of growth in the sense of ‘expansion’ at the present rate is impossible within Oxford’s physical constraints, and the Objectives as stated therefore unattainable. In the absence of any effective central government policy to divert economic expansion to regions that would benefit from it, the focus for expansion — assuming that expansion of population and economic activity will be impossible to hold back through planning policies alone — must be in Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley bioregion as a whole. Therefore, rather than being Oxford‐centric, policies (and particularly transport policies) will have to reflect the need for the whole region to function in a fully connected‐up, networked way.
This is the central problem that must be faced. What is being considered here is a plan for the city alone, of course, and to be responsible the city should have policies that provide it with the tools to control the problem — but in planning terms growth/expansion must be recognised as a problem which can only be solved by proper regional spatial (rather than economic) planning, which we lack. Expansion of the city cannot be a desired spatial planning objective.
- Employment‐based land use (we need to free up more land for affordable housing)
Housing (we need a new approach to fix our broken housing market)
- Green Belt & Green Spaces (don't rip the green heart out of the city)
- Heritage, Design, Quality Development (our city must be future‐proof)
Travel & Transport (the preferred options already look dated)
Facilities & Services (when the Council says ‘nearby’ it should mean something)
- District Centres (more localisation of facilities is needed)