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Column 6th March 2019

Lots to be decided, but infrastructure must be a key part

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the launch of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 and we have now had time to read most of the documents.

The most important thing is that District Local Plans will need to be in broad conformity with the Plan 2050 and provide a detailed application of the strategic policies which it contains.

So whatever is included in the final version of this Plan 2050 will be carved in stone.

This is the first stage and covers the Vision, Aspirations and Objectives, and Spatial Options. Further details will be available later in the year.

The document sets out five aspirations:

- Improve housing availability/affordability

- Support economic growth

- Strong and healthy communities

- Protect environmental quality

- Improve connectivity and movement.

Each of these aspirations could offer real benefits to future generations, but if taken to the extreme, or taken in isolation, would result in major changes to our landscape. 

As with all complex planning issues there are choices to be made and balances that need to be struck.  It is likely that balance will be difficult to achieve and priorities will be imposed.

The consultation document also explores the potential strategies for where to put all the additional new homes in the Plan. 

It suggests a range of options, for example concentration on existing towns and villages, providing new towns or spreading growth across the county or a combination of these options.

We are asked to give our views on which is most appropriate.

There are no growth figures yet but if we have to build 100,000 homes by 2031 then it must be at least another 100,000 by 2050. This would mean at least another 20,000 for the Vale.

I guess if we don’t get the reservoir then we can fit a new town between Hanney, Steventon and Marcham or if not, it might mean that Challow, Grove and Wantage become one settlement as might Milton, Harwell, Sutton Courtenay and Didcot.

If the plan wants to strengthen the Science Vale then it could try to join Wantage and the villages to Harwell Campus!

Wherever they decide to impose the new homes, we must make sure that they ensure funding for the infrastructure needed to support them. We still don’t have any improvements to roads, health and leisure facilities and schools are still a promise – not fact.

Comments can be submitted until Monday 25 March on the consultation website https://bit.ly/2I35RnG (https://oxfordshireplan.inconsult.uk/consult.ti )


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