Planners in Oxfordshire Take Cue from May in Kicking Spatial Options Can Down the Road


Oxfordshire has just launched its first consultation on its Joint Spatial Plan.

At this stage its very high level all goals, aspirations and context.  You will recall the last JSP that tried this, Greater Exeter, was widely condemned for being ‘just PR’ and ‘not fit for purpose’.

It sets out transport issues, but no solutions other than mentioning in passing ongoing projects like the expressway.   It deals with the future economy in a one sentence motherhood statement without any analysis of how to tackle the labour and housing market challenges in Science Vale.  It doesn’t discuss the demographic challenges of an aging population or the challenges of university expansion.   It even fails to mention the wider arc initiative.

In terms of housing and spatial challenges it does mention a number of ‘spatial options’ like hub and spoke, new settlements, urban intensification etc.  whilst acknowledging that no one will be enough.  But it doesn’t give any clue as to the huge scale of the challenge with its growth deal numbers and how and where development might be located on a map in ‘planet earth’ space.  Instead ‘options’ exist in a conceptual ‘none space’ with no relationship with real settlements and real fields on a map.  It is difficult therefore to see how people can reasonably respond without writing long essays telling Oxfordshire the already held and known views of stakeholders.

The problem here is that the return of strategic planning has ran ahead of strategic planning thinking.  Ill be publishing a long essay on this soon.  Thew strategic planning challenge is about locating units of ‘strategic scale development – that is development sufficient to support a district centre and secondary school, which depending on school re-organisation can be anywhere between 6-11,000 (likely around 10,000 in Oxfordshire) – see this recent report for Southend and surrounds, where I set out the methodology for them.  Suitable places for development on this scale can be narrowed down to reasonable options and in my piece ill be setting out a high level GIS based method for assessing these.


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