Oxford City Local Plan 2040

Need Not Greed Oxfordshire (NNGO) has responded forcefully to the City Council’s current Preferred Options consultation on its Local Plan to 2040.

NNGO is seeking to remind residents that in the last round of local plans the City’s aggressive growth ambitions resulted in 15,000 houses being foisted onto the surrounding Districts. These allocations were mainly in the Oxford Green Belt – whose purpose is specifically to set limits on the expansion of Oxford in order to protect this historic city.  These new housing developments, many of which aren’t yet built are already putting huge pressure on local communities, infrastructure and services.

NNGO member Ian Ashley commented:

“The City is seeking to plan housing to support an increase in workers.  We think it should prioritise scarce land to provide truly affordable homes for people who already work in the City. Beyond that, housing growth should be constrained due to the climate emergency, loss of biodiversity, the democratic wishes of the Districts and the UK’s urgent need for Levelling Up by creating jobs where people already live.” 

 NNGO member Suzanne McIvor disagreed with the City Council’s assertion in the Preferred Options that addressing inequalities can only be achieved by “supporting the economy, delivery of sufficient housing and provision of affordable housing”.   She said:

The City Council acknowledges in the same document that a growing economy can result in more pressure on the housing market and exacerbate issues with affordability.  Attracting more people from elsewhere to work in the City is not the answer.  What is actually needed are truly affordable homes such as council houses“.

NNGO’s concerns relate to three main areas.

1. NNGO is highly critical of the Preferred Options consultation document, which it claims is not fit for purpose because it fails to set a housing target and therefore can’t provide meaningful spatial options for people to comment on.  NNGO also condemns the complete failure of the Council to take account of responses from an earlier consultation where public opinion was overwhelmingly in favour of safeguarding the natural environment and its wildlife habitat and preserving open spaces. NNGO believes this is an unacceptable failure of process – and is disrespectful to those who took the time to respond to the previous consultation.  NNGO also urges residents not to respond to the consultation via the online questionnaires, which it says include too many leading questions designed to elicit responses to support the City’s preferred outcomes. 

2. NNGO claims that the City Council is out of touch with the concerns of its residents in pursuing a continued high economic ‘growth at any cost strategy’, which it says could lead to an urban sprawl eventually encompassing Witney, Thame, Bicester, Kidlington and Abingdon.  In addition the City’s approach fails to address the overarching climate and environmental imperatives.  NNGO is also clear that there is no evidence that simply building more houses reduces house prices.

NNGO is looking to an alternative vision of prosperity with less expansive growth; by building houses that are really needed within the urban areas. They claim this vision is much more in keeping with the need for levelling up – and NNGO challenges our world famous University and Colleges to turn their attention away from pressuring local land development (and seeking windfalls on the land that it owns) to working with the regions that would benefit from economic growth.

3. NNGO wants the City Council to set the housing figures at the minimum it is possible to achieve. NNGO say that exceptional circumstances (from the climate, nature and health emergencies, the democratic wishes of the Districts, the need for truly affordable housing, and the UK need for levelling up, to the special local environment of Oxford) demand that the City Council should seek a housing figure that is below the Government’s Standard Methodology.

Ian Ashley added.

“NNGO considers it crucially important that the general public and elected councillors in the Districts surrounding Oxford challenge the City Council as it develops this local plan; as we know an ill-considered Plan with inflated housing figures will have far-reaching, significant and detrimental effects for Oxford and beyond.

We have specifically asked the City Council for reassurance that it will not be using the same consultants that produced the flawed housing forecasts for the now abandoned Oxfordshire Plan 2050.  We would also like confirmation that the consultants who prepare the housing forecasts are not conflicted by being overly reliant on developers for the majority of their income”. 


 The full response from NNGO on the Oxford 2040 Plan can be read here.

The Preferred Options consultation document can be found on the Oxford City Council website.
Housing is covered in Chapter 2.