Science Vale Area Action Plan

We are keen to see the Knowledge Spine of the Oxfordshire Strategic Economic Plan implemented successfully.

24 April 2015

Oxford Civic Society has recently responded to the Consultation on the Science Vale Area Action Plan Issues and Scope Document, February 2015. The comments complement OCS comments made a little earlier on the South Oxfordshire District Council Consultation: Local Plan 2031: Refined Options Consultation and on the recent Oxfordshire County Council consultation “Connecting Oxfordshire”.

This article is a summary of our full comments which you can find here on the Oxford Futures website.

OCS commented on the basis that whilst the city and its neighbours have always functioned as a city-region, with the strong impetus now being given to economic development planning in Oxfordshire this has become even more evident. Our principal interest is to see the Knowledge Spine of the Oxfordshire Strategic Economic Plan implemented successfully, for the benefits it will bring nationally, regionally and locally.

The Spine comprises three economic growth cores, Science Vale (where existing extensive research infrastructure will be consolidated, Bicester (where improved infrastructure, increased land availability will facilitate population and employment growth) and the City of Oxford (where investment will continue in the critical infrastructure necessary to realise the full potential of its world-class education, research and innovation that underpins the overall Economic Plan).

One of the key requirements for successful implementation of the Knowledge Spine is linking these three economic growth cores. The intention of the Economic Plan was that the Oxford Science Transit would be at the heart of the growth agenda with a fully integrated public transport system that connects the economic growth cores, complementing investment in the road network to ensure that the Oxford City-region is interconnected, linking employment, housing, retail, cultural and leisure opportunities. However in the recent Oxfordshire County Council consultation “Connecting Oxfordshire” the Science Transit role in the development of the Knowledge Spine is presented largely as a topic for R&D. The obvious use of the existing rail corridor between key sites at Bicester, Oxford, Culham, Didcot, Milton Park, Grove and possible extensions is completely neglected. This deficiency is serious as it is understood from our OCS discussions with university representatives that the lack of good transport between R&D centres and university campuses is one of the most important current barriers that impedes collaboration on R&D and development of nascent businesses.

The County Council’s proposed timing of Science Transit is also of concern: the planned slow delivery of the Science Transit over a period of 20 years is surprising in view of the current existence and operation of many, if not all, of the key sites to be connected and the need to provide key infrastructure in advance to reduce the likely adoption of the car as the default mode of travel by those who will be working or living at them. There is no mention of any Rapid Transit up to 2030. Most of the projects to be implemented are concerned with improvements of existing services on existing roads, branding and ticketing and does not seem very different to existing services. The County Council’s lack of urgency could have a negative impact on the realisation of the Knowledge Spine Vision, including that of Science Vale. We suggest that what is needed is acknowledgement that excellent and well-coordinated communications, especially public transportation, between the three economic growth cores is a high priority and that extending the Science Vale AAP to become, effectively, a Knowledge Spine AAP (or a Central Oxfordshire AAP) would also be useful.