Oxford City Council is set to agree on the next steps for the delivery of a major development including nearly 3,000 new homes in an urban extension to the south of Oxford.
Next week, the cabinet is expected to confirm how the council intends to work with fellow landowners Thames Water and Magdalen College on plans to develop an area of land south of Grenoble Road. The council has long-held ambitions to develop this site, which sits between the A4074 to the west and Sandford Brake substation to the east, to help meet Oxford’s need for homes.
The site is largely within South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) boundaries and was incorporated in the SODC Local Plan 2011-2035 adopted last December. It will deliver nearly 3,000 new homes, with 2,480 of these expected during the period of this Local Plan.
SODC’s Local Plan requires half of the homes to be affordable, with 35% of these at social rent, 40% affordable rent and 25% low-cost homeownership – for example, shared ownership.
The proposed development – known as South Oxfordshire Science Village (SOSV) – will also feature an extension to the Oxford Science Park, new schools, open spaces, community facilities and shops, as well as improvements to sustainable travel.
These could include a new Park and Ride and the reopening of the Cowley branch line at the science park.
SODC released the SOSV site from the Green Belt during the adoption of its Local Plan for “exceptional reasons” which include providing for Oxford’s unmet housing need – in particular the need for affordable housing – close to where that need arises.
While Oxford’s own local plan supports the delivery of nearly 11,000 new homes by 2036, this will involve building up to the city’s boundaries and will still not be enough to meet Oxford’s housing needs. SOSV will also contribute to the regeneration of Blackbird Leys as well as providing better sustainable travel and an extension to the science park.
The council will now work with Magdalen College and Thames Water to put a development agreement in place and begin the procurement of a master developer taking primary responsibility for the planning and delivery of the site. This approach has been identified as the best fit for SOSV as it minimises financial risk and allows the landowners to influence the development of the site.
A planning application could be submitted in 2023.
High demand and scarce availability mean that Oxford is among the least affordable places for housing in the UK. People on average incomes are priced out of the housing market, and private rents are nearly double the average for England as a whole.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2020, the median house price in Oxford was £400,000 – 11.72 times the median gross household earnings (£34,124) in the city. For England as a whole, the median house price is 7.84 times median earnings. The cost of housing in Oxford puts homeownership out of the reach of people in occupations like teaching, nursing, transport and retail.
Half (49.3%) of homes in Oxford are now in the private rented sector, where the ONS reports a median private rent of £1,450 a month for a three-bedroom home. The equivalent amount for England as a whole is £800.
Meanwhile, there are currently more than 2,850 households on the council’s housing waiting list.
This means that many people are living in overcrowded conditions or are priced out of the city altogether. More than half of the people who work in Oxford face lengthy commutes on overcrowded roads every day.
The cost of housing means that nearly a third of Oxford’s children live below the poverty line.
“It’s been a longstanding ambition of the city council to develop our land at Grenoble Road, to provide some of the homes needed to meet the demand for affordable housing in Oxford. The allocation of the land in the South Oxfordshire Local Plan and the council’s partnership with Magdalen College and Thames Water – the other landowners in the area – allows that ambition to be realised.
“The allocation of this site for just under 3,000 homes includes a requirement that half will be affordable tenures – including council homes, sub-market affordable rent and shared ownership homes. There’s a lot to do before a planning application is submitted, and we’ll be working hard with Thames Water and Magdalen College to put a development agreement in place and bring in a partner to help share the risks of the scheme and get the building of these new homes under way.”
“We’re already working closely with our friends at South Oxfordshire District Council, who are the planning authority, and look forward to realising a shared vision with them for this important new development on the edge of Oxford.”
—Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, cabinet member for planning and housing delivery