How can we ensure good growth in Oxfordshire?

We organised four debates about the future of Oxfordshire

2 June 2021

This article is for the record, describing the four free debates on development planning and management in Oxfordshire organised by Oxford Civic Society in May 2021.

aerial view housing and open country

We all know that Oxfordshire is a wonderful place: beautiful countryside, magnificent buildings, a thriving economy and a reputation for innovation. Who wasn’t proud that the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid was developed by our university?
And what makes Oxford attractive to us also makes it attractive to others. We are constantly told of the need for more housing, more space for business and technology, more and better transport links. But how is this growth to be achieved without compromising what makes our city and county special? And how can it be reconciled with the need to modify our behaviour for the sake of the climate?

These debates explore how the plans of various agencies can be pulled together around agreed basic assumptions to achieve sustainable and equitable development which supports the competitiveness of the economy.

There are many plans recently made or currently being made – the Local Plans of the Oxfordshire District Councils and the City Council, the Oxfordshire 2050 Spatial Plan, a new County Council Transport and Connectivity Plan, an updated Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy, an Oxfordshire Local Industrial Strategy and more. Yet even with an Oxfordshire Vision now in place, it is not clear how these various plans of various agencies will deliver the future we need. Our aim with these debates is to bring clarity to a confused picture and to look for common ground and the best ways forward. The four debates cover:

  • Planning for Our Future: How to ensure good growth
  • Transport and travel
  • Homes and settlements
  • Climate Change: the path to Net Zero

At each debate Oxford Civic Society opened the floor with an explanation of its own analysis of where we are and how we might get to where we want to go. This is followed in each event by speakers on the national development context, the local context from a civil society point of view and from a local political figure with a major role in development. Each debate is concluded with a Q&A session chaired by the Society.

The debates took place online in May 2021 on two Saturdays, with the Development Planning and Transport Planning events on Saturday 15 May, and the Homes and Settlements and Climate events on Saturday 22 May.

Please note: Some speakers were candidates in the city and county elections on 6 May. They were invited to speak as as holders of the positions cited prior to the elections.

Planning for Our Future: How can we ensure good growth?

Saturday 15 May 2021 10.00 am – 12.15 pm

This session will consider the big picture – the strategic options for the city and county over the next decades and the levels of growth linked to these options. It will start with a presentation from Oxford Civic Society setting out our analysis of the current situation.  Speakers are:

  • Ian Green, Chair, Oxford Civic Society
  • Hugh Ellis, Policy Director, Town and Country Planning Association
  • Helen Marshall, Director, Oxfordshire CPRE
  • Alex Hollingsworth, city councillor and city council representative on the Oxfordshire 2050 Plan, Oxfordshire Growth Board Sub-group
  • Chair: Sir Clive Booth, President, Oxford Civic Society

Planning for Our Future: Transport and travel

Saturday 15 May 2021 1.15 pm – 3.40 pm

travel to work mapThis session will focus on how transport planning must be an essential part of the wider planning agenda and focus on the proposed Oxfordshire Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP) and the best ways forward. Speakers are:

  • Peter Headicar, Special Advisor, Oxford Civic Society
  • Lynda Addison OBE, former Chair of Transport Planning Society & CIHT Sustainable Transport Panel
  • Alison Hill, Chair, Cyclox
  • Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council, Cabinet Member for the Environment
  • Chair: Jonathan Scheele, Oxford Civic Society Transport Group.

Planning for Our Future: Homes and settlements

Saturday 22 May 2021 10.00 am – 12.15 pm

Barton Park aerial photoThis session will examine the current needs and aspirations for new homes and expanded settlements across the county. It will consider these in the wider regional and national context, including the proposals for the ‘Arc’. Speakers are:

  • Peter Thompson, Oxford Civic Society Executive Committee and ex+Chair
  • Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, University of Oxford
  • Richard Harding, CPRE
  • Susan Brown, Leader, Oxford City Council and Chair of the Oxfordshire Growth Board Housing Sub-group
  • Chair: Gillian Coates, Vice-chair, Oxford Civic Society

Planning for Our Future: Climate change and the path to Net Zero

Saturday 22 May 2021 1.15 pm – 3.40 pm

global temperature mapThe UK has a national ‘net zero carbon’ target for 2050 and all our local councils have set their own goals. This session will look at how Oxfordshire can ‘meet or beat’ the 2050 target, and at how planning for net zero can help overcome the challenges we face. Speakers are:

  • Chris Church, Oxford Civic Society Executive Committee
  • Professor Nick Eyre, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
  • Barbara Hammond, CEO, Low Carbon Hub
  • Emily Smith, Leader, Vale of White Horse D.C. and Chair, Oxfordshire Growth Board
  • Chair: Ian Green, Chair, Oxford Civic Society