Barton Area Action Plan

Paving the way for a new suburb of Oxford.

9 May 2012

The City Council’s Core Strategy sets out policies for the provision of more housing in Oxford (together with other development policies), and designates a key housing site in the north east of the city, between Barton, Northway and Old Headington. The City Council has been developing policies for this specific area, now incorporated into the Barton Area Action Plan, which forms part of the suite of documents which constitute the Local Plan. The development process involved four stages: Issues & Options, Preferred Options, Proposed Submission and a Public Examination. Oxford Civic Society responded to consultations by the City Council at each of these stages and was granted representative status at the Public Examination by an Inspector appointed by the national Planning Inspectorate which took place between July and September 2012.

Barton – Submission

Following on from the formal adoption of the Core Strategy for Oxford, the City Council consulted on the third stage (‘Proposed Submission’) early in 2012. Following this consultation, the Barton Area Action Plan for the new Barton development was formally submitted to the Secretary of State on 13 April 2012, as part of the process for establishing policies to form an Area Action Plan (AAP) to determine the framework for the proposed major new housing development. Several aspects of the proposals were controversial, including potential effects on Old Headington and Northway, the treatment of allotments and the existing Nature Park, the A40 itself, and the relationship of the new housing to it. These and other issues were debated in depth at the Public Examination held in July-September 2012.

At the earlier stages (‘Issues & Options’ and ‘Preferred Options’) of consultation on this project we submitted responses and we responded again to the consultation in March 2012. The Society’s responses can be viewed here: OCS response to Oxford City Council’s questionnaire.

At the end of the Public Examination hearings in July, the Inspector announced that she would hold two further Hearing Sessions on 21st and 24th September 2012 to consider outstanding matters. These included the Sustainability Appraisal, the Ruskin Fields, Policy BA 1 (transforming the ring road) and BA 7 (pedestrian and cycle links). The Society submitted a response to the consultation on alterations proposed by the City Council and was present at the September 2012 Hearings.
Synopsis of Oxford Civic Society’s views on the Barton AAP.

Both the present and the previous governments have required local authorities to plan for new housing. Oxford is no exception. Indeed, the need for additional housing in Oxford is probably as great as in any other city outside London. The Barton Area Action Plan is part of the City Council’s response. It envisages extending development west from the existing Barton community and adding approximately 850 dwellings with associated infrastructure. Because of the limitations imposed by the City’s boundaries and the Green Belt, there are no other areas in the City which could accommodate a development on this scale.

The location of Barton outside the Oxford Ring Road poses a number of challenges if the new Area is not to suffer the problems and social consequences of being isolated from the rest of Oxford. There are essentially two scenarios. The first is a thriving community enjoying good physical access to employment, public services, shops and entertainment in the rest of the City and benefiting the Oxford economy. The second scenario is one in which the isolation from these services results over time in social problems that will be a serious challenge for the City and a drain on its resources. The aim must therefore be to find solutions that favour the first scenario.

The City Council’s proposals for Barton have sought to encourage ease of communication between Barton and the City by creating an adequate number of crossing points on the Ring Road for buses, cyclists and pedestrians and more limited access for private vehicles, while introducing speed limits for vehicles using the Ring Road. The Society has argued that simply installing sets of traffic lights and erecting speed limit signs would be inadequate to ensure that traffic speed reduction would be achieved, to a level which would make safe at-grade connections feasible, and which would make noise levels acceptable for residential development. We argued for at least one, or more, roundabouts, and possibly other measures (lane width reductions, landscaping changes) which would physically cause traffic to slow to an appropriate speed.

The speed limit of 40 mph originally proposed by the City has been opposed by the police and County Council (as transport authority) and residents of Old Headington have raised concerns about the impact of the proposals on the Conservation Area. In addition, concerns have also been raised about the future of the Ruskin Fields, a green south of the Ring Road opposite the proposed new Barton development.

Oxford Civic Society recognises the importance of achieving a positive outcome for Barton, as envisaged in the first scenario. Equally, the concerns of Headington residents and the preservation of the Conservation Area must be respected. The Society has been represented at the key public meetings which have taken place, including the hearings held by the Planning Inspector in August and September 2012. We see our role as contributing to the development of solutions that could solve some of these apparently intractable problems, drawing not only on UK experience but also on that in the rest of Europe.

Barton Area Action Plan – Inspector’s Report

The full Inspector’s Report can be downloaded from the City Council’s website.

The Inspector’s Report was considered by Full Council on 17th December 2012 and the Barton Area Action Plan (as amended by the Inspector’s Report) was adopted..