Arc Options for Oxfordshire

Part two of this series, part one being Cambridge, looks at growth options around Oxford in the light of the governments forthcoming Arc framework. Like the first overview it doesn’t pretend to be a complete overview of the whole county.

Oxford is a harder City to expand than Cambridge. Unlike almost any other UK city it didnt undergo a late victorian/edwardian phase of major expansion. After North Oxford the only other early 20th Century phase was the City Council led development of Olny. The problem was Oxford was tightly contained in a loop of the Thames, and these meadows offered views it is glittering spires. It didnt properly lea the thames beyond the limited faubergs South of Magdellen bridge until the growth of the car industry in the 30s led to the development around Headington and Cowley.

Oxford had something of a growth planning exercise led by the Oxford Society and assisted by Nick Falk. Most of those proposals are now in local plans, however there was no formal masterplan for growth and most of the proposals outside the city were only accepted very late by the districts. This provides growth around to 2030 the limits of the Oxfordshire Growth framework. The three major growth areas being around Begbrook/Yarnton to the North, South of Grenoble Road, to the North East North of Barnton, West of Oxford to the North of Eynsham and to the South around Culham Science Centre and Station. All of these are entirely sensible and close to the city. They are far better than the alternatives of Cotswolds, Otmoor or river meadow and indeed few argue against the locations – its mainly an hysterical ill argued wailing against the very thought, the very idea of development that county Nimbys have kept at bay for a generation.

For future phases of development close to Oxford options are limited. Oxford Airport, if you could move its operations to say Chalgrove would be a major accessible brownfield site. Chalgrove is really silly place for a new settlement, accessed without transeit on village lanes, and Homes England should know better. CPO Oxford Airport and shift operations instead.

There is a risk all of the developments to the East of the A40 will be parallel to it rather than along a transit corridor. Crossing the A40 is a problem and the only means of doing so would be from the Marston Road roundabout. From here you can develop a perpendicaular transit corridor rather than ribbon development parallel to the Oxford bypass. This needs to be masterplanned as a whole and not separately By Oxford City and South Oxfordshire.

Another potential zero carbon corridor could be formed from restoration of the Wycombe branch from Oxford to Princes Risborough, via Cowley and Wheatley. This is already planned but only from Oxford to Cowley. This could enable expansion southwards at Whatey and Thame. And a new Garden City between Tidlington and Milton Common.

Turning Southwards the closure of Dalton Barrecks frees up a massive brownfield site, but it needs BRT connections to Abingdon and Oxford.

Didcot is reaching its maximum extents without harming AONB, bar some potnetial expansion to the North.

This leaves to the west of Didcot. Shortly thereafter at Challow the line was stripped back from 4 tracks to 2 all the way to Swindon, creting the most congested section of railway in England. There is potential for restoring 4 tracks and running east west rail as a short stopping metro service on the slow tracks all the way to Swindon. There could be Garden communities at several stations, notably former stations at Grove, Wantage Road, Challow, Uffington, Shrivenham and Bourton.

Like I have suggested for west of Cambridge them acting as a string of pearls for a frequent, transit based zero carbon community sharing regional institutions and services.

The Oxfordshire Growth Deal and Local Plans – Too Many or Far too Few Homes

One of the sillier grounds for challenge for the Cherwell and South Oxfordshire local plans is that the Oxfordshire Growth deal figures they embody are too high. This is nonsense as:

  1. The growth deals runs 2011-2031, only 10 years, local plans with new settlements will have to run for 30 years
  2. It embodies the old standard method, now frozen in time in the new one, and so therefore includes a ‘cap’ and takes no account of jobs led growth or correcting the jobs/housing imbalance leading to increased commuting
  3. As only based on the standard method it takes no account at all of overspill from land constrained areas, as the original arc report did. Therefore not one extra ‘arc’ home is proposed for the above two reasons.
  4. It doesn’t include the updated 2018 HH formation figures because the government has said don’t include them. They are suppressed because households don’t form if there are no houses for them to form into.
  5. This is the first wave of growth for Oxford since the 1930s. Why should Oxford be different from any other town and force people working there to drive dozens of miles to get to work. It would be planned sprawl and contrary to all of the governments climate commitments.
  6. It is an argument lost at every Oxfordshire examination.

Does Wrexham Really Need a Green Belt?

The new Welsh National Spatial Strategy (replacing the Welsh National Spatial Plan) has a new section

The Welsh Government requires the Strategic Development Plan to identify a green belt around Wrexham and Deeside to manage urban form and growth.
The Strategic Development Plan must consider the relationship of the green belts with the green belt in Cheshire West and Chester. Local Development Plans and development management decisions should not permit major development in the areas shown for consideration for green belts, except in very exceptional circumstances, until the need for green belts and their boundaries has been established by an adopted Strategic Development Plan.

The close relationship between the North East and Cheshire West and Chester and the large green belt immediately adjoining
the administrative borders of Wrexham and Flintshire, mean that long-term development pressures will in part be directed from
England to the North region. The proximity to a large populous English region provides opportunities that can support the North,
but these opportunities must be managed strategically and on a regional basis

Wrexham and Deeside are designated as Growth areas, but the plan envisages limiting growth between Chester and Chester.

Green Belt wraps around Chester to around 5 miles from Wrexham.

Wrexham is around 14km from Chester. There is little chance of convergence.

Growth around Saltney (the welsh bit if Chester) would be good thing as it is next to the major employer Airbus

It is clear the political reason is not taking any of England’s housing need pushed outwards as sprawl because of the constraint of the Green Belt.

All that is needes is a slither of Green Belt North of the Dee at Blacon.

‘Treasury North’ Darlington is not ‘Left Behind’ its 7th fastest growing town in Britain

Some nonsense in the FT Today

The northern England railway town of Darlington has emerged as the most likely location for the Treasury’s new economic campus, despite a last-ditch attempt by senior civil servants to locate the project in a city. Treasury North is set to be the centrepiece of the government’s plans to move 22,000 civil servants out of London by the end of the decade. Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who will make a final decision this weekend, is under pressure from numerous ministers — including Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and international trade secretary Liz Truss — to plump for Darlington on Teesside. They believe this would be a totemic symbol of prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to use the levers of government to improve the economies of England’s towns through a “levelling up” agenda. Darlington returned a Tory MP at the 2019 election for the first time in decades. But permanent secretaries, the most senior civil servants, are urging the chancellor to opt for a larger northern city, such as Leeds or Newcastle, with closer ties to universities, according to Whitehall officials. Sunak will announce the location of Treasury North in next week’s Budget. It will take five years to set up and initially house 750 officials — 400 from the Treasury and the rest from other ministries including the business and trade departments. According to individuals with knowledge of the discussions, Sunak’s shortlist for the campus has narrowed to Darlington, Newcastle, Leeds, and Bradford in West Yorkshire. One government insider said: “Ministers are very keen for departments not to move to the big cities. We are the people’s government, so we have to move government closer to the people in communities that have been overlooked and undervalued in the past.” Ministers believe that youthful civil servants should capitalise on the advantages of living so far out of London, including cheap house prices. They believe civil servants are trying to build up “London-like metropolitan clusters” in major cities rather than helping left-behind towns.

However lets see what Invest in Darlington says

“Darlington is the 7th fastest growing economy in the UK – given our size and geographic location that is no mean feat – but more importantly it’s sustained growth, which comes down to having a sound economic strategy created by businesses to meet their needs”.

Key Facts:

Key Facts:

  • Darlington has a higher percentage of the working age population educated to degree level than the average for the North East as a whole
  • Darlington has a higher proportion of people in management and professional occupations compared to the North East (2015 – 2016)
  • In terms of employment concentrations against National and Tees Valley averages Darlington has comparative advantage in a number of sectors, such as, Manufacturing and Engineering, Specialised Construction, Logistics and Financial Service Activities
  • The employment rate in Darlington, currently at 74.7%, outperforms all other areas within the Tees Valley (Source: NOMIS)
  • Gross disposable Household Income for Darlington residents has grown by over 7.9% (between 2012 – 2015) to £16,139

Hardly forgotten, hardly left behind, its a major growth pole in the North East which the TReasury proposal will further facilitate.

One Person Under 26 Comments on East Devon Local Plan Review

Devon Live

If you don’t like the decisions that the council makes on planning matters then now is your chance to change things, say East Devon District Council, as they start work on a new Local Plan.

While nearly 20,000 people have registered to comment on planning proposals through the council’s website, less than ten per cent of them have opted to receive information on matters such as the new Local Plan, which will decide what and where we allow new developments in East Devon for the next 20 years.

So far, only one person under the age of 26 has shared their views on the new local plan, and the council is urging all groups in the community to tell them what they need and want from future developments.

Key Agencies and the Arc Framework

The conservative government has mad it clear that Government Agencies don’t set policy they implement it. However the Arc framework will be National Policy. So will they comment in public on key proposals in the emerging framework. If they don’t, and just do so behind closed doors then there will be definite public concerns over lack of transparency. Equally however lack of cooperation by agencies has been a major barrier to meeting housing needs. Frequently you see the dark hidden hand of the Highways Agency blocking plans for Garden Communities anywhere near the M25 etc.

A couple of points. Firstly there are considerable lessons to be learned from the work of the Key Agencies Group in shaping revisions of the Scottish National Planning Framework.

Secondly agencies do not always mirror functions. There is a Highways Agency, not a transport Agency. There is no longer CABE but a mix of the Design Council and the new Place directorate. Now is a time to reform some agencies so they are fit for purpose in delivering National Policy Objectives and giving good coordinated advice. Growth has to go somewhere which means many of the agencies having to produce joined up solutions for difficult issues such as impact on European Habitat sites and impact on the strategic roads network.

Nuno Espirito Santo Discovers Planning

I bought some land in Portugal, on the highest hill in Guimaraes, because I pictured that I wanted to build my house there. I said, ‘What a perfect place this would be,’ but I forgot to ask the council if I could build a house there. When I did, they said, ‘No!’

“Will I sell it? Do you want to buy it? I should have checked it out but it was in 2002 and I was 27.

“It was going to be my dream home. It was perfect. We sometimes go and just sit there.

“It is beautiful. There is a hill with a big church (Santuario da Penha) and the views are fantastic. But building, they don’t allow it because it’s over 200 metres – under that yes, above that, no.