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How our housing deal helps meet Oxfordshire’s growth challenge

elmsbrook eco town bicester 2
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The deal is challenging all the county’s authorities to work together on housing to produce lasting results, while ensuring good growth.

  • Project: The Oxfordshire housing and growth deal
  • Objectives:
    - To support achieving Oxfordshire’s plans for 100,000 new homes by 2031, including creating roughly 6,500 new homes during the deal period and roughly 1,300 additional affordable homes by 2021
    - To fund transport and supporting infrastructure projects to secure priority housing and employment sites, unlocking future funding to support more new homes.
    - To submit and adopt a joint statutory spatial plan covering five planning authorities up to 2050
  • Timescale: 2018-22
  • Cost to authority: The deal provides £215m funding of which £60m is for at least 1,300 affordable homes and £150m is for infrastructure improvements, including road and rail, which will help accelerate the creation of new homes. The final £5m is capacity funding, including for the creation of a joint statutory spatial plan.
  • Number of staff working on project: A small core programme team of 10 working with delivery teams in each of the councils
  • Outcomes: The deal commits to creating 6,500 homes. It will also support more than 40 infrastructure projects across the county, aiding the creation of additional new homes
  • Officer contact details: Caroline Green, interim deal director, Oxfordshire Growth Deal

Oxfordshire is an attractive place to live and work, offering a good quality of life and a thriving economy, providing work for many and generating prosperity more widely.

It is a national economic asset, and a net contributor to the exchequer. But a congested transport network and severe housing a ordability problems constrain its future economic potential and threaten quality of life.

Oxfordshire’s local authorities are thinking long-term about how to provide the new homes residents need, the new jobs and workplaces for careers to prosper, the schools for our children and grand children, the facilities to maintain the health and wellbeing of the county, and the transport networks to keep people connected.

That is why our authorities are working together through the Oxfordshire Growth Board to secure inward investment andplan for growth to create successful, attractive and healthy places to live for existing and new communities. The authorities see the housing and growth deal, collectively secured with the government in 2018, as the first step in a longer-term programme of investment needed to fulfil authority ambitions for the county.

By making good on the deal, we are aiming to unlock a pipeline of future investment to support new infrastructure, housing, jobs and skills across the county over the years ahead. Two further housing infrastructure fund bids are being prepared that would help to bring total funding to £500m for infrastructure projects across the county – and we want that to only be the start.

The approach taken to fulfil the deal is underpinned by several key strands.

First, the deal provides £30m a year for five years to help accelerate transport infrastructure projects, including road, rail, cycle routes and footpaths, and social infrastructure including new schools. This forward funding unlocks further contributions from developers. Around £500m of investment is now planned in more than 40 projects across the county.

Harwell Link Road

These include improvements to major roads such as the A40, promoting public transport with a new park and ride, and work to support Oxford railway station development to increase capacity. There will also be more cycle lanes and better pedestrian access at several locations.

On properly planning for each development, each Oxfordshire district is committed to submitting a local plan for examination by April 2019 covering the period to 2031 or 2036.

Beyond that, the Oxfordshire plan 2050 will look further ahead and to provide a longer-term framework that will help to form future local plans in the districts. This will ensure that a planned approach balancing both local and strategic needs is taken. It will help to prevent unplanned speculative development and focus on the importance of good growth.

Protecting the integrity and richness of the county’s historic and natural environment, creating good quality housing in attractive places with sustainable travel options, community facilities and good job opportunities with residents is at the heart of the process.

Housing is vital in this. In 2014 we identified the need for 100,000 new homes by 2031 which are currently planned for in local plans. Through our deal we are targeting investment to improve infrastructure in locations where it is most needed, ensuring that new homes are built in a planned and sustainable way by investing in transport and community assets.

The deal commits to creating 6,500 homes. It will also support more than 40 infrastructure projects across the county, aiding the creation of additional new homes.

Elmsbrook eco-town, Bicester

Oxfordshire is among the costliest places to live in the UK. The deal thus provides £60m to support more than 1,300 additional affordable homes in the next three years which includes new social-rented housing. Our ambition for the affordable housing programme is to drive innovation and attract new partners to create homes across a range of tenures that are genuinely a ordable for locals.

Additionally, our local industrial strategy will help to drive productivity and innovation, attracting inward investment into our area, providing a long-term vision to 2040 and positioning Oxfordshire as one of the top three global innovation ecosystems.

It will help in investing in skills, and benefit from new technologies helping provide local people with more opportunities and expand the workforce for employers.

Despite our strong economy there are pockets of deprivation and inequality across the county. The housing and growth deal is a chance to address this by building more a ordable homes, and to make the case for big investment in skills.

There are big challenges to overcome. Perhaps the biggest has been the timescales involved and ensuring all authorities are geared up to deliver in a short space of time. Getting work through planning systems has never been quick and we have had to work hard to align timetables amid the moving parts of the deal.

It has required a real adjustment in how the councils and our partners, including Homes England, work together. We have come together as partners through the growth board with a strong and clear common vision and purpose. This is enabling councils to focus on housing challenges from a joined-up, countywide perspective.

What would success look like? For the board it will be Oxfordshire leading the way in high quality, long-term sustainable growth that means the county remains a great place in which to live, work and invest.

Caroline Green, interim deal director, Oxfordshire Growth Deal

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