Oxford Local Plan 2036: Proposed Submission Draft Consultation

Chapter 1- Foreword, Introduction and Spatial Strategy


We live in a fast-changing world, where how we communicate, do business,
work and shop are evolving more rapidly than our predecessors thought
possible. But some things do not change – the need for a secure home, a
job that brings dignity as well as a means of support, the opportunity to
bring up a family, to make and keep friends, all in a place that offers the
opportunity to live, not merely to exist.

Oxford is a wonderful city, with a beauty and a history that brings visitors
here from all over the world. We are a centre of learning and innovation on
a global scale, and we have much of which we can be rightly proud. But
we are also a city where inequality is stark - where decent and affordable
housing is out of reach for so many of our citizens, and where poor air
quality damages the lives of many more.

We need to make sure that Oxford continues to be a successful and
attractive city; a place that people enjoy living and working in, as well as
visiting. Oxford’s Local Plan is a vital document that sets out the shape of
our city, and how it will look and feel in years to come. It will guide and
shape new developments, so that they respect the past and present of
Oxford, while improving its future by supporting our city’s people and their

This new Local Plan will determine the homes, jobs, community facilities and
infrastructure for the next twenty years, striking the right balance between
the different pressures that Oxford and its people face. It also sets out our
priorities as a city. It makes a priority of providing affordable housing, and
good quality jobs. It focuses growth and development on district centres,
not just on the city centre, to make sure that facilities and services are close
to home and more convenient for local residents. It prioritises walking,
cycling and public transport to help tackle congestion and pollution on our

A Local Plan needs to respect the city of previous generations while shaping
the city of the generations to come. That is what this Local Plan aims to

1. Introduction

Strengths, challenges and vision for Oxford

i. Oxford is an attractive place to live, work, study and visit. Its success means
there is a high demand for land, with knock-on consequences for prices
and infrastructure provision. The pressures of success can be seen in the
high house prices, congestion and poor air quality in certain areas. The
vision of the Plan is to build on the positive aspects of Oxford and deal
positively with the issues.

Table 1: Oxford’s strengths and role

Economy, knowledge, and research

Oxford is in a fortunate and positive position, having a broad, diverse and active economy. The city has one the highest concentrations of knowledge intensive businesses in the UK. Oxford’s role in the regional and national economy is vital. It is the ‘service centre’ for the Oxfordshire economy, having the fastest growing and best educated workforce, and also being the main centre of research and spin-outs in the county. Positive indicators of the strength and success of Oxford’s economy include the very low levels of unemployment, the good rate of new companies being set up, and that established employers are keen to move into the city.

Retail and tourism

Oxford’s high streets are full and active and the vacancy rates are low. The market is confident for the future with significant investment planned and being delivered, such as the new Westgate centre. Oxford is a major draw for visitors from overseas, domestic tourists and day visitors. It attracts approximately 7 million visitors per year, generating £780 million of income for local Oxford businesses.

Life, culture, health, and well-being

Oxford offers the opportunity for a high quality of life for its residents. It is a desirable place to live. The population is diverse and youthful giving the city life and vibrancy. The range of amenities, facilities and services available in Oxford mean it punches well above its weight for a city of this size. Oxford has excellent museums and cultural opportunities and hospitals offering cutting edge research and treatments.

History and urban environment

The wealth of historic and architectural assets in Oxford is a significant draw for investors, visitors, and those looking to locate in the city. Beyond the world renowned historic core, Oxford is made up of a series of communities with clear and distinct identities and character that bind those that live there.

Natural environment

Oxford is a city with a rich natural environment; the two rivers and their valleys and areas of real significance in terms of landscape and biodiversity are located in close proximity to large parts of the community. Areas for informal and formal recreation are easily accessible, and are important for people’s health and wellbeing. They provide a vital green lung to the compact city, and provide space for formal and informal recreation.


Oxford is a compact city with a well-established pattern of sustainable travel. Cycling rates are high, bus services are comprehensive and frequent, and rail services are expanding and being improved. Consequently the population of the city is less reliant on the private car than in most other British cities.

Environmental responsibility

The City Council has pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions within the second half of the century. It intends to maintain its position as a leading UK Local Authority in tackling climate change and intends that by 2050 it will use only 100% renewable energy.


Diagram 1:


ii. Oxford’s Local Plan vision is linked to the City Council’s Oxford’s Vision
2050. Vision 2050 brings together people’s aspirations and hopes for
the city in the future. In that vision Oxford will be a global centre for the
knowledge-based economy, and all residents will benefi t from the strong
economy. Deprivation and inequality will be reduced, Oxford’s diverse
communities will have a strong sense of togetherness and people will be
able to live fulfi lled, happy and healthy lives. Oxford will be an affordable
place to live. It will also have an attractive, clean and healthy environment,
where heritage and the natural environment are protected.

iii. The Oxford Local Plan 2036 looks ahead 20 years and beyond, giving
consideration to how it can best address the pressures and challenges
Oxford faces. Oxford will continue to grow and develop. This growth will
be associated with a liveable and sustainable environment that balances
economic, social and environmental needs, ensuring that the city remains
a highly desirable place to live, work and visit.

Table 2: We want Oxford in 2036 to:

  • be at the forefront of research and innovation;
  • be a global centre for research, education and healthcare;
  • be home to high-tech firms and start-ups;
  • have a well-educated workforce; and
  • have an appropriately skilled local workforce which provides a pool of talent to support businesses and institutions
  • continue to have a diverse, globally competitive economy led by innovation;
  • have low unemployment;
  • have used training, skills, and apprenticeships to address the divide between the prosperous and the deprived parts of the city; and
  • see the benefits of being a high-performing, smart economy, such as a clean, well-designed city with quality infrastructure
  • be an exemplar of low carbon development;
  • have made progress towards the Council’s commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in Oxford this century;
  • have led the way in developing and adopting new technologies to help create a clean and green environment;
  • insist on high levels of energy efficiency;
  • produce energy from local, renewable and low carbon sources;
  • be resilient to the impacts of climate change;
  • have reduced private car travel and a good network of safe and accessible cycling and walking routes; and
  • have greatly reduced vehicle emissions through the use of zero emission vehicles, including buses
  • benefit from high quality new architecture and public realm which integrates well with the existing historic environment, townscape and landscape character;
  • access to high quality green spaces, cultural and community facilities;
  • have a network of open spaces rich in biodiversity offering multiple benefits to health and wellbeing through their social, environmental and recreational value;
  • accommodate its visitors successfully, particularly in the city centre, having reduced conflicts between different users; and
  • inspire people to find joy in their surroundings and interaction from their environment
  • have reduced inequalities;
  • offer a range of housing types, sizes and tenures to suit the varied needs of our population;
  • provide a wide range of facilities and services within easy access;
  • provide spaces and opportunities for social interaction bringing people together;
  • be made up of diverse yet cohesive communities; and
  • engender a sense of civic pride
  • offer the opportunity for healthy lifestyles;
  • provide homes and environments that offer good living standards;
  • offer access to excellent healthcare;
  • support high participation in sport and recreation;
  • provide healthy travel choices;
  • benefit from significant improvements in air quality


Sustainability Appraisal and Habitats Regulation

iv. A Sustainability Appraisal is an appraisal of the economic, environmental,
and social effects of a plan. The intention is that it is undertaken from
the start of the preparation of a plan to help ensure decisions lead to
sustainable development. In June 2016 we published a Sustainability
Appraisal Scoping Report. This identifi es baseline information regarding,
economic, social and environmental issues within Oxford and identifi es
other plans and guidance, to European level, that have a bearing on the
formulation of plans within Oxford. This is summarised in the Sustainability

v. The Sustainability Appraisal assessed the policies and objectives of the
Oxford Local Plan 2036 against the Sustainability Appraisal objectives
in order to confi rm general consistencies between the two sets of
objectives. The SA was produced alongside the Local Plan 2036 to predict
and evaluate the effects of the document. It ensures that all aspects of
sustainability were properly considered and suggestions were made for
improving sustainability. These have been incorporated into the policies
where appropriate.

vi. The Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) is a process used to assess the
impacts of policies against the conservation objectives of a European site
and to determine whether they would adversely affect the integrity of
that site. The City Council undertook a screening process to determine
whether or not the proposals of the Local Plan will have a signifi cant
effect on the Oxford Meadows Special Area of Conservation (SAC). It
concluded that an Appropriate Assessment was required to assess the
potential impacts of the Local Plan on the SAC; alone and in combination
with other plans or projects. This assessment concluded that the policies
of the Local Plan can be implemented without having an adverse effect on
the integrity of the SAC.

1. Spatial Strategy

This Plan will support the vision of Oxford as a growing and developing city.
This growth will be associated with a liveable and sustainable environment
that balances economic, social and environmental needs, ensuring that the
city remains a highly desirable place to live, work and visit.

Addressing the housing issue is a key priority and this Plan will aim to
provide more homes while protecting and enhancing the Oxford’s unique
historic and natural environment. The Plan seeks to support the growth in
the Oxford economy in key sectors linked to its economic strengths and
contributing to advancements in learning and innovation locally, nationally
and globally.

The focus of new development will be on intensifying development on
previously developed land as this is not only best practice but essential in
a constrained urban environment like Oxford.

The Oxford Local Plan 2036 reflects this presumption in favour of
sustainable development incorporating clear policies as to how this
presumption is to be applied to development across the city.

Policy S1: Presumption in favour of sustainable development

When considering development proposals the Council will take a positive approach that reflects the presumption in favour of sustainable development contained in the National Planning Policy Framework. It will work proactively with applicants  to find solutions jointly which mean that applications for sustainable development can be approved where possible, and to secure development that improves the economic, social and environmental conditions in the area.

Planning applications that accord with Oxford’s Local Plan (and, where relevant, with neighbourhood plans) will be approved without delay, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

Where there are no policies relevant to the application or relevant policies are out of date at the time of making the decision then the Council will grant permission unless material considerations indicate otherwise, and unless:

a) any adverse impacts of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the National Planning Policy  Framework taken as a whole; or

b) specific policies in that Framework indicate that development should be restricted



Which part of the document do you wish to comment on? (please give the relevant paragraph or policy number below)

Option Results Count
Policies Map
Policy Number
Sustainability Appraisal


Do you consider that the document:

(a) is legally compliant? 5 2
(b) is sound? 2 13
(c) complies with the duty to co-operate? 5 2


Do you consider that the document is unsound because it is not: (tick as appropriate)

Option Results Count
(a) positively prepared?
(b) justified?
(c) effective?
(d) consistent with national policy?


Please tell us below why you consider the document to be unsound, not legally compliant or fails to comply with the duty to co-operate. If you do believe the document is sound, legally compliant, or complies with the duty to co-operate you may use the box to explain why.

13 people have answered this question.


What change(s) do you consider necessary to make the document sound or legally compliant? Please explain why this change will achieve soundness or legal compliance. (Please note that non-compliance with the duty to co-operate is incapable of modification at examination.)  It would be helpful if you could suggest revised wording for the policy or text in question.

10 people have answered this question.

Spatial application of the strategy

1.1 This Plan supports the role and function of the City Centre,district centres
and transport nodes, as the most sustainable locations for new development.
Oxford is made up of several main centres (see Spatial Strategy Diagram).
These areas act as centres for the local community, and also function as
transport hubs. These centres are vibrant places to be, with a mix of uses
and people working, learning, shopping, meeting and visiting for leisure.
It is important to build on the opportunity for activities to cluster together,
such as offi ces, student accommodation and the universities, or medical
research and clinical practice.

1.2 These centres are well connected to their surrounding residential areas
by public transport, walking and cycling networks. Directing new
developments that attract lots of people to these existing centres reduces
the need to travel because of the variety of facilities in one place and it also
maximises the opportunity to use existing routes and networks to travel by
walking, cycling and public transport.

1.3 Oxford has developed at the confluence of two rivers in a ‘green bowl’.
Its built heritage, especially its dreaming spires, is iconic. The connection
between the built environment and Oxford’s setting within the wider
landscape is part of Oxford’s special character. The network of green
fingers that extend from the surrounding countryside along the river and
canal corridors and into the heart of the city are a vital part of Oxford’s

City Centre

1.4 The role of Oxford city centre as a primary focus for shopping,
employment, leisure, education and cultural activities as well as a major
tourist destination is vitally important to the overall success of Oxford. This
varied role and mix of uses mean that it draws people in from all over the
city, the county, and much further afi eld. It is performing very successfully
against a range of measures, the range of services and amenities it offers is
high, retail vacancies are low and visitor numbers are high. This success has
however led to problems with congestion, air quality and over-crowding
of the pavements and public realm. To address these problems and to
accommodate some of the growth predicted it will be important to
manage the competing interests in the city centre.

1.5 Much of the city centre is covered by the central conservation area and
contains the medieval core of the university. The city centre also includes
the West End, which is the area of the city centre with the main opportunity
for growth. This area is considered as an Area of Change in Chapter 9. The
Central Area Conservation Appraisal has identifi ed principal issues in the
central conservation area, which are:
• pressure on public space in the core area streets from pedestrian
saturation and buses
• lack of accessible squares and green space
• controlled access to green space
• uncertain retail future
• design of new buildings
• managing the setting
• conservation area boundary on the western side

1.6 There are opportunities to manage the competing interests in the city
centre. This may be possible through a review of the access and transport
arrangements (for example by removing unnecessary trips/miles journeyed);
providing opportunities to access “town centre uses” in alternative locations
(for example providing for more facilities in district or local centres); and
reviewing the role of specific streets/areas of the city centre to provide for
different needs (for example a restaurant district or tourist focused area)
and increasing the public realm and capacity of streets. The Conservation
Area Appraisal identifies opportunities to enhance the conservation in
ways that would sustain the city’s cultural, economic and social prosperity:
• rebalance the pace within streets from vehicles to pedestrians
• identify sites for a new network of ‘micro parks’ where people can stop
and dwell in streets
• increase public access to existing green spaces and the waterways
• promote development of opportunity sites in ways which contribute to
and celebrate the characteristics of the city that make it so distinctive
and special

Cowley Centre

1.7 Cowley Centre (including Templars Square and the John Allen Centre) is
second in Oxford’s hierarchy of centres as the Primary District Centre. This
recognises the special qualities and features of the Cowley Centre that
elevate its status above the other District Centres. These include the scale
of retail and service provision (it scores much higher in national rankings
of shopping centres than the other District Centres), the range of retail on
offer (especially strong on comparison goods and low vacancy rates) the
size of the catchment area and its importance to users (many of whom
would visit the Cowley Centre in place of the City centre), its role as a
public transport interchange, and its capacity to accommodate growth and
opportunities for redevelopment.

1.8 Planning permission was granted for a large-scale redevelopment scheme
in 2017 which represents a signifi cant investment (£60 million) in the
quality of the buildings and public realm and a strengthening of the range
and quantity of facilities provided (including residential development).
This reinforces the status of the Cowley Centre and its importance in the
hierarchy of centres. Beyond this scheme, there continue to be opportunities
for redevelopment of adjacent sites within and around the District Centre.
The City Council will encourage schemes which make more effi cient use
of the sites available and strengthen and diversify the range of services and
facilities on offer to the local community and its wider catchment area.
East Oxford-Cowley Road District Centre

1.9 The Cowley Road is the main centre for a large and diverse population
of East Oxford including many students; it provides for the convenience
shopping needs for the local area but generally plays a less important role
in terms of the retail provision than other District Centres. It is however
particularly strong in terms of leisure and service provision. It is a vibrant,
diverse and dynamic street which is an important part of its character and
one that is treasured by local residents, city wide and visitors alike. An
important part of its identity is the role it plays in the evening economy
with the O2 Academy, Ultimate Picture Palace Cinema and a wide range
of restaurants, bars, cafes and takeaways. In addition there are large
community facilities such as the East Oxford Health Centre and Oxford
Central Mosque and community features such as the farmer’s market and
annual Cowley Road Carnival which add to vibrancy and community feel.

1.10 The Cowley Road is a busy arterial route into St Clements and the city centre
at one end, and Oxford Business Park and BMW at the other. It runs through
a highly populated area and the character of the district centre reflects this.

Headington District Centre

1.11 Headington District Centre is focussed on the main arterial of London Road.
The majority of retail and services are concentrated around the crossroads of
London Road with Windmill Road and Old High Street. The centre provides
a range of convenience retail facilities but fewer comparison shops. It does
however, have a good range of retail services including banks and a local
market. A large proportion of the food and drink offering is independent.
As a centre it primarily provides for its local resident population, having its
own library in Bury Knowle Park and St Andrew’s CoE Primary School to the
eastern edge of the district centre.

1.12 A distinctive feature of Headington is the large potential catchment from
local institutions and businesses. The district centre is very close to the John
Radcliffe Hospital and to the Oxford Brookes University campus. These
are both sites with large numbers of workers, students and visitors and
whilst in recent years each of those sites has invested in their own town
centre use facilities, there is an opportunity to try and capture more of this
potential market. As the Headington Hospitals grow and develop there
is an opportunity for better physical connections between them and the
district centre will be key to facilitating this.
Summertown District Centre

1.13 Summertown District Centre is focussed on the main arterial of Banbury
Road and on the adjacent South Parade. The retail balance in Summertown
District Centre is more in favour of comparison shopping and it benefits
from some independent retailers and higher end national chains. There is a
strong representation of services and community and leisure facilities with
the Ferry Sports Centre, including a swimming pool, and the North Oxford
Centre. There are also many schools in the Summertown area, both state
and private.

1.14 The centre has an attractive feel with interesting shops, coffee shops and a
weekly farmers market. Summertown is an attractive location for employers
and employees; there are a signifi cant number of offi ce developments in
the district centre and around the fringes. It offers good public transport,
clustering benefi ts with other offi ce and service uses, and a vibrant centre
for lunchtime and after work browsing.

Blackbird Leys District Centre

1.15 Blackbird Leys District Centre provides some small scale convenience retail
facilities for the local community; however the stronger aspect is the range
of community facilities including the leisure centre, swimming pools,
community centre, library, college and public house. These collectively
provide a strong heart for the local community; along with open space
and playing fields. In the case particularly of the college and the pools, they
also attract people from a much wider area to use their facilities.

1.16 Surveys showed that users of the Blackbird Leys District Centre expressed
a strong preference for accessing the Cowley Centre for their comparison
shopping rather than making the trip to the city centre, this emphasises
the importance and role of the Cowley Centre Primary District Centre.

1.17 There are significant redevelopment opportunities at the Blackbird Leys
District centre.

Areas of change

1.18 As well as the district centres there are other areas of the city where
significant change is expected or best directed. These are discussed in
Chapter 9 and each has a site allocation within it. The other areas of
change are:

1.19 Cowley Branch Line
This area already contains the Oxford Business Park and Science Park and
the BMW Mini plant. This area is suitable for intensifi cation of employment
uses and for new and increased density residential development.

1.20 The Old Road area, Headington
This has traditionally housed hospitals and more recently has become an
important centre of medical research. There is increasing and extremely
beneficial cross-over between research and medical practice. The long-term
existence of hospitals in this area and their co-location also brings
benefits in terms of there being an established infrastructure network.
Therefore, this area is a key focus for new medical research facilities and
medical use.

1.21 Osney Mead and the West End
This area to the west of the city centre provides the main opportunities for
growth of the city centre and for growth in a central location of innovation
and industry, particularly linked to the main university campus.

1.22 Marston Road/Headington Hill
This area contains some significant academic sites, including Oxford
Brookes’ Headington Hill campus and sites opposite and acquired by the
Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. The institutions have aspirations of
growth at these sites, which needs to be managed carefully in this sensitive

1.23 Northern Gateway/Oxford North
This site has already been allocated and is the subject of the Northern
Gateway Area Action Plan which forms part of the Oxford Development
Plan. The AAP makes provision for 90,000m2 of employment land (restricted
to the science, research and development fields) and 500 new homes. This
site will come forward for development during the Local Plan period and
will have a significant impact on the supply of specialised employment
floorspace and deliver one of the largest housing sites in the city. Therefore
whilst it is not subject to an allocation in this Local Plan it will nonetheless
constitute an area of change in the context of the vision for the city.

1.24 Barton
Similarly the Barton site, located in the north east of the city between
Barton and Northway, is the subject of an Area Action Plan which forms
part of the Oxford Development Plan. The AAP makes provision for up to
800 new homes, a primary school, some retail and associated uses. Work
has commenced on the early phases of the development and whilst the
site is not an allocation in this Local Plan its development over the plan
period will also constitute an area of change in the context of the vision for
the city.

Key elements of the Local Plan strategy

Building on Oxford’s economic strengths and ensuring prosperity and
opportunities for all

1.25 Objectives

• To build on Oxford’s economic strengths as a global centre for research,
learning and health care

• To remain at the heart of the Oxfordshire economy and an important
net contributor to the national economy through its key strengths in
the knowledge intensive businesses (such as education, health, science
and technology) and as a leading environmentally sustainable city

• To reduce inequalities across Oxford, particularly in employment, health
and education

• To provide a diverse range of employment opportunities to meet the
needs of the city’s businesses and residents, allowing Oxford to grow
and function sustainably, and with a skilled workforce ready to fill the
employment opportunities that arise

1.26 Oxford is in a fortunate and positive position, having a broad, diverse,
active and growing economy. The Local Plan seeks to help support Oxford’s
role as a fast-growing city, generating economic growth for the local
and national economy. The Local Plan protects the most important
employment sites; however no new employment sites are identified.
Instead the policy approach seeks to make the best use of all existing
sites through intensification and modernisation to accommodate the
forecast demand for new employment floorspace over the plan period.

1.27 Site allocations in Chapter 9 aim to ensure best use is made of important
employment sites such as the Oxford Business Park and Science Park, as
well as maximising the potential for health sites to diversify to provide
linked research and development. Planned employment growth including
that at Northern Gateway aims to ensure that the forecasted economic
growth envisaged in the economic gstrategy, Housing and Growth Deal
and the Local Industrial Strategy can be accommodated.

Diagram 2: Spatial Strategy Diagram

1.28 The city has one the highest concentrations of knowledge intensive
businesses in the UK. It has the fastest growing and one of the best
educated workforces in the country and is the main centre of research
and spin-outs in the county. Oxford has real strengths in the knowledge
economy. There is a wealth of research and development being undertaken
directly and indirectly linked to the universities and medical research
organisations. This has resulted in many other companies being attracted
to the city owing to the quality of the workforce and clustering effect. The
Local Plan supports the growth of these sectors and puts in place
measures to manage the effects of success.

1.29 Whilst Oxford has real strengths in the knowledge economy, other B1
office uses and B2 industrial uses make an important contribution to the
economy of Oxford, offering a range of employment opportunities for all
residents. Through the use of employment site categories the plan seeks
to balance these uses to ensure that this diverse employment base is

1.30 The Plan seeks to secure opportunities for local employment, training
and businesses from large developments to share the benefits of growth.
Due to the nature of most housing growth in Oxford through small scale
sites, most school provision will need to be made by growing existing

1.31 The Local Plan takes a clear approach to restrict the future growth of
private colleges and language schools to ensure that land is available
for more important uses to be developed such as housing and student
accommodation for the universities or B1 office use.

A pleasant place to live, delivering housing with a mixed and balanced

1.32 Objectives

• To deliver as much housing as possible whilst balancing other important
needs of the city’s residents and businesses

• To deliver affordable housing and ensure that it meets the requirements
of those in need

• To plan for an appropriate mix of housing sizes, types and tenures to
meet the needs of existing and future residents as far as possible

1.33 Addressing the need for housing is the number one priority of the
City Council. The Council will make full use of the range of tools and
mechanisms at its disposal to ensure housing is delivered to meet the
needs of the city. In the Local Plan this has involved allocating or allowing
for housing development on as many sites as possible including some that
are greenfield land and Green Belt, as well as increasing densities and
building heights where possible to make the most efficient use of land. The
Local Plan places the greatest priority on the development of housing. The
policy approach on site allocations has been to allocate as many sites as
possible for housing where deliverable.

1.34 There is not the capacity within Oxford’s administrative boundary to meet
all housing need. As far as possible, this need should be met within Oxford
or very close to its boundaries, as this will enable new development to
be connected to areas of employment and other facilities by sustainable
modes of transport. Any urban extensions to Oxford will therefore be
well integrated into the city and will maximise the benefit of existing
infrastructure. Discussions with the other Oxfordshire districts regarding
Oxford’s unmet housing need are progressing positively; three of the
neighbouring districts have agreed to accommodate an element of this
need and are progressing with their own Local Plan reviews to facilitate this.
The next stage is to work collectively across the county in the production
of the Joint Strategic Spatial Plan which will identify broad areas for the
accommodation of growth in the next round of Local Plans.

1.35 In Oxford there is a chronic shortage of Affordable Housing which can take
many forms. The Local Plan strongly supports the provision of housing that
is affordable in perpetuity, that is permanently affordable. Social rented
housing is vital to provide homes for those in particular housing
need and the Local Plan continues to prioritise this.

1.36 The Local Plan introduces a new policy approach aimed at helping key
employers in the city to make housing provision to help meet the
need of their staff. In recognition of the issues that employers face in
recruiting and retaining staff due to the unaffordability of housing in the
city, the Local Plan allows in some circumstances employers to meet their
own need and add to the overall supply of housing in the city.

1.37 Provision of good quality, well managed student accommodation will
continue to be required in Oxford. However it often competes for sites
with general housing and a wide range of organisations seek to deliver it.
The Local Plan therefore places restrictions on the locations suitable
for student accommodation and limits its occupancy to students at
one of the two universities on academic courses of over a year. This
balance supports the two universities and continues the prioritisation of
general housing.

1.38 Given the need and lack of affordability of housing in Oxford, it is
important that innovative approaches to housing provision are pursued,
to enable a broad range of supply. Private rented housing is likely
to be the most achievable option for many. Ways to deliver this
affordably so that attractive housing can be found for workers needed to
support the functioning of the city’s economy will be important. Shared
housing, including co-housing and new purpose built HMOs will also
be important ways to ensure delivery of new housing. While a small
contributor to Oxford’s overall housing provision, there is an increasing
demand created by those choosing to live on our waterways. The Local
Plan commits to protect existing provision and to explore opportunities to
increase moorings and services.

1.39 The Local Plan seeks to ensure that developments are of a high quality
and provide for their occupants needs into the future with the necessary
flexibility as lifestyles, behaviours and technologies change. The Local Plan
incorporates the national space standards, the optional building
regulation on accessible homes and standards for outdoor amenity
space to ensure that designs provide adequate space for occupants,
maximise useable space and provide scope to adapt for future requirements.

Making wise use of our limited resources and securing a good quality local

1.40 Objectives

• To ensure new homes are adaptable to the changing needs of the
population and to climate change, as well as being energy efficient to
help reduce further climate change

• To achieve improved air quality and high levels of energy efficiency,
renewable energy provision and water conservation, maximising
Oxford’s potential in low carbon technologies

• To ensure efficient use of land by seeking opportunities for facilities to
be multi-functional and by maximising efficient use of scare land

• To manage water flow and to help protect people and their property
from the impacts of flooding

• To achieve significant progress towards its net zero greenhouse gas
emissions aspiration across Oxford, with the City Council leading by
example by continuing to reduce its own emissions and increase its use
of renewable energy

1.41 The Local Plan recognises that addressing climate change is one of
the core land use planning principles and the Local Plan contains policies
to mitigate and adapt to climate change in line with the provisions and
objectives of the Climate Change Act 2008.

1.42 New development is expected to incorporate sustainable design and
construction principles of the highest environmental standards in order
to reduce carbon emissions, conserve water, minimise waste and flood risk
and also incorporate measure to enhance biodiversity.

1.43 The focus of new development will be on intensifying development on
previously developed land. This consolidating approach to developing the
city in future is not only best practice but essential in a constrained urban
environment like Oxford. The Plan will seek to identify sites that are underused
for example with low-rise buildings and unused spaces, or in a use that does
not make most efficient use of land, such as large surface-level car parks.
The redevelopment of such sites will help to accommodate the development
needs of the city in a sustainable and efficient way; locating new development
alongside existing uses, facilities and public transport connections. Land is a
finite resource and Oxford is particularly constrained. Due to the limited
amount of development space, intensification of uses on sites will be
an important way to accommodate growth. This will need to be delivered
to a high quality and include consideration of density, indoor and outdoor
space standards and heights.

1.44 A large area of the city is at some risk of flooding and a lot of development
already exists in the high risk areas which do not incorporate features such
as SuDs, which help to mimic the natural drainage arrangements of the site.
The Local Plan policy approach is to allow very careful re-development of
existing brownfield sites in Flood Zone 3b to make the best use of
existing sites in sustainable locations. The flood alleviation scheme will
help to convey water away from development infrastructure and help to
reduce flooding in the most at risk areas.

1.45 The City Council wants to promote strong, vibrant and healthy
communities and reduce health inequalities. Developments which
help to deliver these aims will be supported. For major development the
Council will require a HIA which would provide details of implementation
and monitoring.

1.46 Most air pollution in Oxford comes from diesel and petrol powered modes
of transport, although domestic and employment emissions will become
more significant over the lifetime of the Plan. In addition to contributing
to air pollution, transport also contributes to carbon emissions. The ability
to reduce harmful emissions will depend on a variety of measures. These
include reducing the need to travel, promoting development that
can be accessed by sustainable modes of travel such as walking
and cycling, measures that discourage car use, such as minimizing
public and private parking and providing infrastructure to support
low emission vehicles and sustainable modes of travel, such as bike
parking and electric charging points. It is important in areas of poor air
quality, that development is located and designed to minimize the potential
negative impacts of air quality on its inhabitants in addition to ensuring the
development itself does not contribute to air pollution.

Protecting and enhancing Oxford’s green setting, open spaces and

1.47 Objectives

• To protect and enhance a network of multi-functional green spaces and
ensure easy access to high quality green space

• Enhance green spaces so they deliver multiple benefits to health and
wellbeing, are rich in biodiversity, and help the city adapt to climate

1.48 Green spaces are particularly valuable in a compact city such as Oxford,
and will become more important with the population increasing. Oxford’s
waterways are a fundamental part of Oxford’s character, landscape
and setting. The green and blue network brings a multitude of benefits
including environmental (biodiversity, water management and air quality)
to social (wellbeing, heritage and sense of place) and economic (direct
jobs, tourism and creating an attractive business environment). The Local
Plan focuses on ensuring that green spaces are as high-quality and as
multi-functional as possible, with public access particularly valued, as
well as ensuring a network of green spaces connecting wildlife corridors
and green accessible routes. Along all of Oxford’s waterways, new
development that preserves these functions and in particular that
enhances the recreational value, transport value and setting of these
areas is to be encouraged. This network will be protected and enhanced
where possible and a positive approach to the sensitive development of
residential and temporary visitor moorings adopted, in recognition of the
contribution made to Oxford’s housing supply by lawful opportunities to
live on our waterways.

1.49 The most important sites and species for biodiversity and geodiversity
will be protected. The City Council will require assessment of a proposals
impact on biodiversity, where appropriate on-site mitigation measures and
then compensation measures to off-set any loss. The Local Plan will ensure
that there is no net loss in biodiversity.

1.50 The City Council considers that exceptional circumstances exist to justify a
Green Belt boundary review due to the need to support Oxford’s economic
success and its dependence on the delivery of additional housing to meet
housing need. This Local Plan de-designates X sites and allocates them for
housing development. This Local Plan reiterates that planning permission
will not be granted for inappropriate development in the Green

Enhancing Oxford’s unique built environment

1.51 Objectives

• To preserve and enhance Oxford’s exceptional built form with its
legacy of archaeology and monuments, historic buildings, modern
architecture, important views and distinctive townscape characteristics

• To ensure that all new development delivers a high quality of urban
design, place making, architecture and public realm, integrating the
historic environment with modern needs

1.52 New development in Oxford will be expected to be of a high design quality
that respects and enhances the character and appearance of the area in
which it is located and draws from this to create an individual character
drawing on the context. Developments should be easy to understand and
move through, be capable of adaptation for alternative uses, and help
create an attractive and expanded public realm. This Local Plan identifies
key areas for change where multiple sites in close proximity offer an
opportunity to apply good placemaking principles on a wider scale.

1.53 Oxford’s long history is reflected in its outstanding buildings and features.
This vast number and wide range of historic assets is a real benefit and
advantage to the city and it is fundamental to the national identity of
the city. The Local Plan seeks to deliver new development in a way that
respects and compliments this rich history, the historic buildings, parks
and gardens; waterways; conservation areas, archaeology and areas of
distinct local character and townscape. The emphasis of the plan is on
the positive management of change, reflecting the city’s capacity
to move forward while preserving its irreplaceable heritage. New
development should be of a quality that upholds the city’s international
reputation and adds the next layer of Oxford’s future heritage.

1.54 There are important views of Oxford’s world famous and unique skyline
from within the city, from the surrounding meadows and hillsides and across
the city. The views of the skyline of the historic centre are fundamentally
important to Oxford and must be protected. Development of new higher
buildings in the right locations is an important part of accommodating
growth over the plan period. New interventions in the historic skyline
must make a positive contribution if they are to be supported alongside
views of Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’.

1.55 The public’s main experience of buildings is from streets and public spaces.
This Plan puts in place a series of policies and approaches designed to
ensure that the quality of the public realm in Oxford is enhanced;
this includes requiring high quality design that creates attractive and
pleasant spaces designed with the needs of all users and offering choice;
adjusting the balance between road users in favour of pedestrians and
cyclists and using ensuring that street furniture and materials are attractive
and will stand the test of time. It will be important in Oxford that the best
use is made of every public space, particularly in the city centre and in the
district centres where more development is anticipated. Opportunities for
the creation of new public spaces, particularly in the city centre where
people can gather socially and rest should be explored.

Ensuring efficient movement into and around the city

1.56 Objectives

• To ensure growth in the proportion of people walking and cycling to
access jobs and facilities

• To provide enhanced facilities for walking and cycling, ensuring they are
the primary modes for travel around the city

• To ensure walking and cycling routes are complemented with well
managed and attractive public transport routes, and that car use is

1.57 The approach of the Local Plan is to ensure that new development is located
on established sustainable transport networks. The spatial focus for new
development that attracts large numbers of people is on district
centres and the city centre. This is to help ensure these developments
are easily reached by sustainable means of travel and that linked trips are
maximised. Reducing the need to travel into the city centre by locating
facilities and services in district centres will relieve pressure on the arterial

1.58 Walking is an essential component of almost all journeys and it has many
advantages over other modes. Oxford’s compact nature makes it a very
walkable city. The spatial strategy expressed by the Local Plan encourages
walking because of the co-location of facilities, safeguarding of
routes and connections through new developments and positive design
of the pedestrian environment.

1.59 Oxford’s established cycling culture and the relatively compact and fl at
urban area mean that cycling levels are already high. The Local Plan seeks to
encourage more cycling and in particular more people to cycle by providing
for more safe cycle routes (especially off-road through development sites
and parks, where appropriate) and more cycle parking and changing

1.60 Over the Plan period there are likely to be improvements to Oxford Rail
Station, to the links with Oxford Parkway Station and the potential
reopening of the Cowley branch line for passenger trains. The Local
Plan recognises the opportunities these bring and safeguards the land
needed for new stations and land needed for improvements to the line.
The majority of public transport journeys in Oxford are made by bus, and
so the City Council will work with the County Council and bus companies
to improve bus routes and facilitate bus rapid transit as set out in the
Oxford Transport Strategy, particularly where they improve accessibility or
have public realm benefits.

1.61 Opportunities for successful car free housing and workplaces are high in
Oxford because of the number of Controlled Parking Zones, the availability
of walking and cycling routes, and excellent public transport options. The
Local Plan (along with additional measures proposed through the Local
Transport Plan) will effect a reduction in the provision of residential
and workplace parking through improvements to alternative modes,
parking restrictions and management measures, and the encouragement to
redevelop car parks for higher value uses. Over the plan period it is anticipated
that improvements in technology, the growth of the sharing economy and
the attitude to car ownership are anticipated to enhance this approach.

1.62 Most air pollution in Oxford currently comes from diesel and petrol
powered modes of transport. The Local Plan sets out and supports a
variety of measures to reduce emissions and therefore improve air quality
including reducing the need to travel, promoting walking and
cycling, discouraging car use through minimizing public and private
parking and providing infrastructure to support low emission
vehicles and sustainable modes of travel. During the Plan period a City
Centre Zero Emission Zone will be introduced in phases. In addition, new
development will be expected to provide electric charging points.

1.63 Cycling in Oxford is an important and growing mode of transport. The City
Council wishes to continue to encourage this active and sustainable
form of travel and will seek to ensure that new developments provide
secure and convenient cycle parking.

Providing communities with facilities and services and
ensuring Oxford is a vibrant and enjoyable city to live
in and visit

1.64 Objectives

• Promote district centres as the hubs for local community focus and
identity, with transport interchange and activity and providing a range
of social, leisure, sport and cultural facilities appropriate to Oxford’s
diverse communities alongside housing and employment opportunities

• To ensure that development is supported by the appropriate
infrastructure and community facilities

• Maintain the regional role of Oxford city centre as a primary focus
for shopping, employment, leisure and cultural activities, with district
centres playing an increased and complementary role

1.65 Oxford has an established network of centres (see Spatial Strategy Diagram)
with the city centre at the heart supported by the district centres. The
strategy of the Local Plan is for district centres to play an extended
role in accommodating growth and developing their function as
‘hubs’ for the local communities. This approach offers the opportunity
to provide facilities more locally for communities, reducing the need to
travel and easing the pressure on the City Centre. The Local Plan seeks
to build on the strengths of each of the district centres (whether that is a
focus on employment, community facilities, retail or the evening economy
for example) and the opportunities they provide for public transport
connections and provision of other infrastructure and facilities.

1.66 The Local Plan also makes provision for district centres to play an
enhanced role in accommodating a wide range of town centre
uses, complementing those provided in the City Centre. Whilst the city
and district centres will still play an important role in providing the city’s
retail facilities (in the shopping frontages), changing shopping patterns and
the need to locate a wide range of facilities in accessible locations means
that the Local Plan provides for a move away from the traditional retail
focus to a new approach for the high street with increased employment,
entertainment and cultural uses and more housing developed on the upper
levels and outside of the core shopping frontages.

1.67 Tourism is an important element of Oxford’s economy. The city is world
famous and attracts an increasing number of visitors and overnight stays;
it is a top ten destination of the national tourism industry. The Local Plan
seeks to manage the negative impacts of day visitors through the
management of coaches and congestion of the arterial roads and public
realm of the city centre; and encourage tourists to stay longer through
granting permission for short-stay accommodation and tourist attractions
in locations where they are easily accessible through sustainable modes
and where they can be good neighbours.

1.68 Oxford has a rich infrastructure of cultural and social activities and venues,
from theatres, museums, cinemas, galleries, sports and music venues to
restaurants and pubs. These uses help to keep the centres vibrant and
active and add greatly to the local quality of life. The Local Plan seeks
to encourage the development of the uses within the city and district
centres and protect them from being lost through redevelopment to
other higher land value uses.

1.69 A wide range of community, leisure, sport, recreation and cultural facilities
appropriate to Oxford’s diverse communities are supported. The Local
Plan seeks to retain existing facilities, unless suitable and accessible
alternatives are proposed. New facilities that support the growth of the
city and enhance its sustainability, such as state schools, primary healthcare
facilities and community centres will be supported; new development
that actively supports and sustains community wellbeing is to be

1.70 The scale of housing need in Oxford is so large that even if every site
came forward for housing, we would still not satisfy it. A similar challenge
exists for economic development; there are many and diverse needs and
pressures on the city. A strong and healthy city is characterised by its ability
to cater for the needs of its residents, workers and visitors. Given this it is
important to allocate or protect sites for employment, retail, education,
health, recreation and range of other uses alongside those for housing.
The Local Plan seeks to strike the right balance between providing for
these competing uses whilst making as much significant progress towards
accommodating more homes.

Delivering the Strategy

1.71 In order to deliver the Vision for Oxford 2036, the spatial strategy and
plan objectives, the provision of infrastructure will need to be funded and
delivered in a timely manner to support development.

1.72 It is important to ensure that roads, local services and facilities can cope
with the increased demand resulting from the new development proposed
to deliver the spatial strategy, objectives and the vision for Oxford 2036.
Effective demand management, (for example, SMART metering and other
mechanisms for managing the demand for energy and water efficiency,
and travel planning), and making better use of existing infrastructure, will
play an important part in supporting the delivery of new development
required to deliver the spatial strategy for Oxford in 2036.

1.73 Where new development creates a need for new or improved infrastructure,
contributions from developers will be sought to make the development
acceptable in planning terms. New development should also make best
use of infrastructure demand management. In some cases, the cumulative
impact of individual applications may be considered when assessing
infrastructure requirements, taking account of other planning obligations
such as affordable housing. Contributions from a particular development
will be fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the contribution to
the cumulative impact from the relevant scheme; and if necessary address
any immediate unacceptable short term problems.

1.74 The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a tariff in the form of a standard
charge on new development, which Oxford, as a CIL Charing Authority,
sets to help the funding of infrastructure. The principle behind CIL is for
those who benefit financially from a planning permission to pay towards
the cost of funding the infrastructure needed to support development.
Since most development has some impact on infrastructure, it follows that
it should contribute to the cost of providing or improving infrastructure.

Policy S2: Development Contributions

Developer contributions will be sought where needs arise as a result of new development. 

Developer contributions will be used to ensure the necessary physical, social and green infrastructure is in place to support development.  Contributions will be used to mitigate the adverse impacts of development (including a proportional contribution to address the cumulative impact of development proposals.  The City Council will, where appropriate seek to secure such measures through planning obligations. Pooled contributions will be used, where appropriate, to facilitate the necessary infrastructure in line with the development.



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