A crucial element of the West Oxfordshire Local Plan 2031 - establishing a new garden village north of the A40 near Eynsham, known as the Salt Cross garden village has taken a step closer to fruition.
The Planning Inspector recently responded to West Oxfordshire District Council on the Area Action Plan (AAP) for Salt Cross Garden Village, paving the way for the plan to be approved and setting the scene for the development to progress.
The initial proposals for Salt Cross Garden Village include 2,200 new homes and a new science business park, which will give local people an alternative to driving to work in Oxford. Nearby Hanborough railway station and a new Park and Ride facility to the north of Eynsham will provide people with an alternative means of travel.
In January 2017, the Government announced that it would contribute funding towards the new Salt Cross Garden Village alongside 13 other garden villages and three garden towns. Government backing for the Garden Village allowed detailed planning to begin and the opportunity to access infrastructure funding programmes.
In the summer of 2018, the AAP Issues Paper for the Salt Cross Garden Village was published for consultation, followed by a series of community forum events in autumn 2018 through to spring 2019. The final pre-submission draft version of the AAP was published for eight weeks of public consultation from 28 August to 23 October 2020.
After considering the responses to the consultation, the Council formally submitted the AAP to the Planning Inspectorate for independent examination in February 2021, with the Planning Inspector holding public hearings to obtain resident, developer and business views on the plans.
The AAP sets out the framework for how the Salt Cross Garden Village should be a landscape-led development, taking into account key factors such as affordable housing, protecting the environment, active travel and business growth.
The plan includes:
- A requirement to deliver a 25% biodiversity net gain compared to a national standard of at least 10%
- A mix of new homes including opportunities for self-build and 50% affordable housing, including a mixture of rented and affordable home ownership options
- A new 40ha science and technology park adjacent to a ‘park and ride’ into Oxford
- Around 50% (including private gardens and green roofs) of the area will form an accessible and high-quality green infrastructure network
- A comprehensive green infrastructure network for walking and cycling to reduce the need for reliance on cars
- A plan to ensure that local people can benefit from training and local job opportunities
The Inspector has confirmed the plan is close to completion, subject to changes set out in their letter, and the Council will now consult on those changes proposed by the Inspector.
The Inspector approved most of the Council’s ambitious plans, including groundbreaking targets for biodiversity and affordable housing but did not approve the requirement for new homes to be built to net-zero carbon standards.
Councillor Rylett continued, “We are very disappointed the Inspector did not approve the net zero carbon homes approach we proposed. However, the Council is absolutely committed to doing whatever it can to tackle the Climate Change Emergency, and we will be looking at what other options are available to us to minimise any ongoing impact to the climate.”
Views will be sought on the proposed changes through a full public consultation – the timing of which will be confirmed as soon as possible - but is anticipated to take place from July 2022 for 6 weeks.
Garden villages are not new and have been around since the 19th century when places like New Lanark, Saltaire, Bournville and Port Sunlight were built as self-contained new communities, providing good quality housing, access to green space, fresh air and community activities and facilities. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in garden communities and how they can play a role in delivering growth in a sustainable, healthy and inclusive way.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government defines a garden village as ‘a purpose-built new settlement with a clear identity and attractive environment, which provides a mix of homes, including affordable ones, that is planned by local authorities in consultation with the local community.’
Councillor Carl Rylett, Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Development, said: “I am pleased to say the Planning Inspector has supported a large proportion of our incredibly ambitious plans for Salt Cross.
“We want this to be a groundbreaking, sustainable housing development which is why we are pushing for more when it comes to affordable homes, biodiversity and active travel, with a view to making this an exemplar development of national as well as local importance.
“Our Area Action Plan sets the bar high and endeavours to deliver a garden village of the future that sets the standards for protecting our local wildlife, is affordable for local people and provides jobs and sustainable infrastructure.
“It has been designed in collaboration with local people, and I would like to thank all the residents and local organisations who have worked with us to get the plans to this stage.”