Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Oxfordshire Plan 2050?
The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 is what’s known as a Joint Statutory Spatial Plan (JSSP). Through working with all Oxfordshire’s local authorities, it will set out the framework for future planning decisions about housing and infrastructure needs while seeking to protect our natural environment, tackle climate change and improve quality of life for all.
Why are Oxfordshire’s local authorities producing a Joint Statutory Spatial Plan?
The Oxfordshire Plan will help each council to better plan, beyond their current Local Plans and into the future up until 2050. By planning collectively this will help us ensure that our children and grandchildren can continue to live locally with access to good jobs while continuing to enjoy all the benefits of the county such as green spaces, and improving quality of life for all. The Plan will set the strategic (overarching) policies for Oxfordshire and future Local Plans will work in more detail to help deliver them. The Plan is also a commitment as part of the £215m Housing & Growth Deal, agreed by all councils, that will help fund affordable housing and transport infrastructure in the county.
What about climate change?
Oxfordshire’s councils have all declared climate emergencies and pledged to work on reducing carbon emissions. They have also all endorsed Oxfordshire’s Strategic Vision, which aims for Oxfordshire to be carbon neutral by 2050 and will be moving towards a future in which it removes more carbon than it emits each year. Achieving this ambition will require a concerted and collective effort over the short, medium, and long-term through a wide range of plans, strategies, and programmes. It will also require innovative approaches as new opportunities to build resilience and tackle climate change in different and better ways emerge. The Oxfordshire Plan has an important role to play, by planning for carbon reduction, making more efficient use of natural resources, supporting and promoting the natural environment to mitigate the impacts of climate change, championing more sustainable ways to improve the way we move around and digital connectivity and by supporting technological change.
Why do we need more growth and how will it be accommodated?
If we wish for our local businesses to continue to thrive, our innovative entrepreneurs to succeed and our children and grandchildren to have the skills and opportunities for good employment, then standing still is not an option. Oxfordshire is one of only three areas of the UK that contributes more to the national economy than government spends here. Jobs in Oxfordshire are therefore a key part of the national economy and businesses in Oxfordshire create more jobs nationwide. The potential in Oxfordshire’s economy means the Government has been willing to invest funding in homes and infrastructure projects locally, for example through the Growth Deal, and East-West Rail improvements.
However, we know that while unemployment is low in the county at the moment, the lack of affordable housing and our congested roads risk creating a recruitment and skills crisis that could seriously damage the long-term prospects of our region. We want to plan for the best future for our residents and consider what level of sustainable growth can ensure the continuing prosperity of the region, provide sufficient housing to allow businesses to thrive, while maintaining all the elements that make Oxfordshire a great place to live and work.
How many houses will be built across Oxfordshire and why?
In order for future generations to be able to have the same opportunities to work and live in the county their parents and grandparents had, more housing – especially affordable homes and social housing – is needed across Oxfordshire. In 2014 the evidence showed we needed an additional 100,000 homes by 2031, which has been already factored into each authority’s plan making. The Oxfordshire Plan will consider the future housing needs beyond this up to 2050. It will look at where they are best located, in a planned and inclusive way, to help match the aspirations of our residents while helping tackle climate change to improve everyone’s quality of life into the future.
Will this include affordable homes? If so, what is the expected volume?
We recognise the need for more affordable housing in Oxfordshire. The Housing & Growth Deal already has a commitment to deliver at least 1,322 additional affordable homes over four years beyond those previously planned. The work on the Oxfordshire Plan will help determine what level of affordable housing, including social housing, will be needed until 2050 and will consider what policies are required to ensure high-quality, sustainably constructed homes in well-designed developments.
What type of land site will be used to accommodate the new homes? Will you be building on the Green Belt?
We know our green spaces and quality landscapes are highly valued by residents and that they contribute to the high quality of life in Oxfordshire, and we want to ensure the county continues to be a place where people want to live and work. The Oxfordshire Plan will consider strategic growth areas, rather than specific sites. Sustainability will be an integral part of the process in deciding these areas. Districts will then use the broad areas identified in the Oxfordshire Plan to inform their future Local Plans. As the starting point, in accordance with national planning policy, the Oxfordshire Plan will consider sites outside of the Oxford Green Belt and test whether needs can be met that way. However, we must also balance wider sustainability issues such as the effects of increased commuting if people cannot live close to their jobs. As part of the Plan making process we will review the current evidence on Green Belt in Oxfordshire and assess where this needs to be updated; that work will then be used to help inform the policies of the Oxfordshire Plan.
How is transport accounted for in the Oxfordshire Plan 2050?
The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 will take into consideration the current Local Transport Plan, and emerging Local Transport and Connectivity Plan for Oxfordshire. The Plan will seek to promote sustainable transport methods such as public transport, cycling and walking, and will encourage people to not use their cars where possible. The Plan will also consider public transport schemes being explored such as the reopening of the Cowley Branch line and the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge rail line (East-West Rail). We also need to consider that by 2050 people’s needs to travel, and the transport modes available, may be quite different to today, and so the Plan will need to be flexible to respond to these changes. For example, new technologies like more electric vehicles will need charging infrastructure, and options like autonomous vehicles could become much more possible during the Plan period.
How does the Oxfordshire Plan fit with the Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy (OxIS)?
OxIS provides a framework for the identification and prioritisation of strategic infrastructure. Stage 1 of the work focused on infrastructure to support existing planned development up to 2040, but Stage 2 will focus on strategic infrastructure priorities to 2050 that will align and support the preferred spatial options to be set out at the next stage of the Oxfordshire Plan. It is also proposed that planning for future development across Oxfordshire should take account of and help deliver infrastructure priorities identified in OxIS. This summer the public can have their say on these priorities as part of a public consultation that launched on July 16.
Is the plan just about housing and roads?
The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 will be looking at the best way to deliver a better quality of life for all in the county. This includes focusing on health and wellbeing such as encouraging people to cycle and walk rather than driving; protecting and enhancing the natural environment; tackling climate change and promoting energy efficiency; and enhancing digital connectivity. Enhancing the quality of life for residents of Oxfordshire is a key factor in producing the Plan. Everyone involved is keen to explore new ways of monitoring the effectiveness of the policies such as measuring the impact on quality of life/health/happiness to reflect this.
I already contributed to the Local Plan for my area – what will happen to that?
The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 will set out the strategic planning framework across the county to 2050, including the planned delivery of new homes and economic development, and the anticipated supporting infrastructure needed. It will incorporate the aspirations in the Local Plans that have either been adopted or are emerging, and then look beyond their timeframes up until 2050.
We already have a Local Plan, why do we need this plan?
Each of the Oxfordshire districts now have either an adopted Local Plan, or one going through examination, covering the period up to 2031, 2035, or 2036. The Oxfordshire Plan will look further ahead, until 2050, to help provide a longer-term framework for the county. Together the districts, through the Oxfordshire Plan, will set the high-level strategic policies on issues such as housing and employment growth levels and on infrastructure. When each district independently comes to review their Local Plan, they will then frame those new policies in the context of the jointly developed policies of the Oxfordshire Plan. The next round of Local Plans will add more detail to the policies of the Oxfordshire Plan and facilitate their delivery. Working in the context of the jointly developed Oxfordshire Plan policies, these more detailed Local Plan policies can be more effective in delivering the overall policy aims.
How can I have my say on the plan?
We’re committed to ensuring there will be on-going, proportionate, and meaningful engagement with communities, local organisations, businesses, infrastructure providers and statutory bodies. The first public consultation was held in February/March 2019: this explored the objectives and aspirations for the Oxfordshire Plan, and you can see the responses here. The second part of the public consultation on the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 launched on Friday 30 July 2021 and was open for open for 10 weeks until Friday 8 October 2021.
The views and suggestions we received are very important and we will be taking all of these into consideration as we begin the assessment process. The outcomes will be published as soon as possible.
What happens after this consultation?
The responses from this consultations will be used to help form the draft Oxfordshire Plan 2050, which will then be open for six weeks for public consultation. Following that, the final document will be submitted to the Government. A Government inspector will be appointed to consider the plan for “soundness” and may request additional information. Following the closure of the examination, the inspector will prepare a report with precise recommendations. The Plan, along with the recommendations, will then be voted on by all councils. If the Inspector has found that the Plan is (or can be made) “sound” each of the districts will be asked to adopt the Plan and it then becomes part of the councils’ development plan and used in making decisions on planning applications.
What about the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway and the wider plans for growth in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc area?
The Arc is a globally significant area between Oxford, Milton Keynes, and Cambridge. It forms a fast-growing economy based on UK and world-leading research, innovation, and technology. The whole of Oxfordshire forms the western part of the Arc. The Government wants to work with partners across the Arc to build a better economic, social and environmental future for the area, with high-quality, well-connected and sustainable communities, and it is preparing a long-term, high-level plan to help co-ordinate infrastructure, environment and new developments across the Arc. The Oxfordshire Plan – together with Oxfordshire’s Strategic Vision – will help ensure Oxfordshire has a strong voice in the development of the Government’s plans. This includes our commitment to zero carbon and tackling climate change, as set out in our Strategic Vision [link].
As the proposals for the Arc develop, they (in turn) will help inform choices and decisions for the Oxfordshire Plan.
The Government has developed an Arc Spatial Framework and is consulting on its plans this summer [link]. We’d encourage everyone to take part in this consultation, as by doing so you can also help strengthen Oxfordshire’s influence on the final Arc plan.
The Oxford-Cambridge Expressway was formally cancelled by Government on 18 March 2021 after analysis showed that the proposed project would not be cost-effective, with any benefits outweighed by the costs.