Relieving Oxfordshire’s growing pains
By Tony Russell
Do you sit in your car in a slow-moving queue on the A34, stand in a hot, over-crowded train or watch cyclists fly past your bus while it’s stranded in traffic?
Would you like to live closer to where you work and stop that long and costly commute? I suspect the answer is ‘yes’.
Whilst Oxford was named the ‘best place to live and work’ in the UK in 2018 for the second year running (2018 Good Growth Cities index), it has lagged behind other cities when it comes to equality, work-life balance, affordable house prices and transport.
Given that Oxfordshire’s population is predicted to grow by 30 percent, from 702,000 in 2018 to around 911,000 by 2037, life is unlikely to get any easier.
Success also brings a talented pool of workers that currently sits at 434,800 strong with a total output (GVA) of £21.9 billion. This places pressure on the supply and affordability of housing and adds to peak period traffic congestion on a struggling transport network.
The need for new housing and supporting infrastructure has never been more urgent. PBA, now part of Stantec, is proud to be supporting the delivery of strategic developments at several locations in Oxfordshire.
At Barton Park, we are supporting the master developer, Grosvenor, in the delivery of quality infrastructure in accordance with the Design Code. The first phases of affordable housing have now been completed and a new primary school is due to open next year.
Knock on the regeneration of Barton has also resulted. In Oxford North, LGF funding has been secured to enable early delivery of highway infrastructure. PBA is supporting the delivery of new strategic sites including a new Garden Village in West Oxfordshire and the South Oxford Science Village proposals south of Grenoble Road in South Oxfordshire.
These strategic developments will take steps towards meeting the housing and infrastructure needs of the new communities that will be created but must be accompanied by the delivery of planned infrastructure to upgrade the existing network.
The Oxfordshire authorities are benefitting from the £215m Housing & Growth Deal with central Government. More recently, the county council has secured a further £218m of infrastructure funding to support the delivery of new homes and improved transport links including walking and cycling routes at Didcot.
The challenge is to ensure that this money can be spent quickly and in an effective manner to deliver the infrastructure required to unlock planned housing and new affordable homes.
It is vitally important that future infrastructure improvements provide flexibility to respond to changing technologies and lifestyles and make provision for more digital connectivity. Only time will tell, but the onus is on the authorities and the development sector to work in partnership and deliver on the deal, which is crucial to facilitating growth and maintaining a prosperous local economy.
Looking beyond the present funding and identified infrastructure, the authorities and promotors of further development growth must identify investment priorities, secure further funding and deliver the better quality, safer, more resilient and higher-capacity solutions that we all seek as future travel options in Oxfordshire.