The future of the city of Oxford cannot be separated from that of the wider surrounding area from where thousands of people travel in daily to work, shop and enjoy the city’s many cultural attractions. While Oxford’s nationally important knowledge-based economy grows, space to house the people who work in and support it is shrinking. Oxford is part of the Central Oxfordshire city-region, and planning for development must be on this basis. This is the theme of Oxfordshire Futures.
Oxfordshire Futures began life as Oxford Futures, a collaboration between Oxford Civic Society and Dr Nicholas Falk of the urbanism and design consultancy URBED. In 2013 they organised a series of debates for politicians, opinion formers and the wider public, aimed at raising awareness of these strategic issues. Others involved include Oxford Brookes University, Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, the Royal Society of Arts and the Academy of Urbanism.
From these debates a consensus view emerged that current planning practices were too fragmented to deliver the benefits promised by the growth of Central Oxfordshire’s knowledge economy. Four local authorities, the County, the Highways Agency, Network Rail, the Local Enterprise Partnership, landowners such as Oxford University and its Colleges, and private sector developers are all involved in planning and delivering the fabric and infrastructure needed.
At the same time Oxford was declared Britain’s “least affordable city”. 5000 new homes in the county may be needed every year up to 2031. The City Deal is set to bring over 18,000 new jobs and £700m of public and private investment. The pressure for growth and to find solutions is inescapable, while at the same time ways must be found of protecting the region’s valuable heritage. Oxford Civic Society launched a call for ‘smarter growth’, challenging political, business and community leaders to work together for the benefit of all. Learning from experience elsewhere, both in the UK and Europe, is a key part of the Oxfordshire Futures approach.
As interest in Oxford Futures increased and participation in its discussions widened beyond the confines of Oxford City its name was changed to Oxfordshire Futures in September 2016.
On this blog you will find articles and papers related to these issues. We want to raise public awareness and stimulate debate so please add your comments and thoughts on any of these or other related topics.
Oxford Civic Society aims to improve the quality of life in Oxford by working to influence planning, building, environment, travel and community issues. It has nearly 1,000 members and is a registered charity. www.oxcivicsoc.org.uk
Dr Nicholas Falk is an urban economist and strategic planner who founded his consultancy URBED in 1976. He played a key role in the development of Cambridge where he has worked for a number of years on achieving quality growth in and around the city. In Oxford he has advised on the new community at Barton Park.