Residents, including council tenants, shared owners, and homeowners, will begin moving into their newly completed homes at Bridges Cross – a 36-home OX Place development on Speedwell Street.
OX Place, the housing company of Oxford City Council, with main contractor Willmott Dixon, marked the handover of Bridges Cross to the council with a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week.
This was attended by lord mayor Councillor Lubna Arshad, council leader Councillor Susan Brown and cabinet members Councillor Linda Smith and Councillor Nigel Chapman, together with staff from the city council, Wilmott Dixon and OX Place.
Bridges Cross provides 36 low-carbon homes, and nearly three-quarters are affordable. The development is a single block of four to six storeys, comprising 18 one-bed flats, 17 two-bed flats and one three-bed flat.
Each flat has a private garden or balcony, and the homes also have access to two feature communal courtyards.
Bridges Cross is probably best known to current Oxford residents as the site of the former homeless hostel Lucy Faithfull House. A bench in one of the courtyards features a plaque commemorating Lucy Faithfull, a social worker and lifelong campaigner for children’s rights.
The new development also sits on the site of a 13th-century Dominican Order (Blackfriars) friary that was demolished after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538. An archaeological excavation in 2021 revealed evidence of Oxford’s medieval past, including a stone coffin, decorated floor tiling, and external and internal walls and floors.
Bridges Cross was designed by Levitt Bernstein Architects and supported with £1,377,000 from the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.
OX Place’s ‘fabric first’ approach means all its developments feature enhanced insulation and air tightness standards. Rooftop solar PV panels will help generate up to 60% of the development’s overall energy use.
This means Bridges Cross exceeds council planning requirements by going 60% beyond carbon reduction targets in 2013 building regulations.
Bridges Cross also features OX Place’s first green roof. Green roofs – also called living roofs – offer many benefits. These innovative features naturally insulate buildings and absorb rainwater, cutting energy costs and reducing flood risks.
Green roofs improve air quality, provide natural cooling to counteract the effects of urban heat islands and improve the performance of the solar PV panels. They also boost biodiversity by attracting wildlife like birds, bees and other insects.
The development is car-free, except for two parking spaces with EV charging provision for flats that can be adapted for people with mobility needs. Each flat has two bike parking spaces.
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of Bridges Cross is affordable, exceeding the council’s 50% affordability requirement for a development of this size.
The 36 flats are made up of 15 council homes let at social rent, three council homes at affordable rent and eight shared ownership homes.
Social rent is calculated based on the size and value of a home and average regional incomes. This means Oxford council tenants typically pay around 40% of the rent a private landlord would charge for the same home.
While the government defines affordable rent as up to 80% of an equivalent private rent, the council’s tenancy strategy bases it on local housing allowance (LHA) levels. For council tenants, affordable rent is around 60-65% of private rents.
In a city where house prices are more than 12 times household income, shared ownership helps people onto the housing ladder by buying a share in their home. This makes homeownership a reality for people like first-time buyers, key workers and under-40s who cannot afford to buy outright in Oxford.
The remaining 10 flats are OX Place’s first homes for market sale. Sale receipts will be invested in providing more affordable housing and supporting frontline council services.
“We welcome the completion of this development with 36 new homes, nearly three-quarters of which are affordable. Bridges Cross stands as a testament to our commitment to providing homes that are accessible to all, reflecting the urgent need for affordable housing in Oxford.
“I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to OX Place, Willmott Dixon, and everyone who has made this vision a reality. Your dedication to creating high-quality, sustainable homes is truly commendable.”
Lord Mayor Councillor Lubna Arshad
“At OX Place, our guiding principles have always been to offer design-led, affordable and sustainable homes. Bridges Cross exemplifies this commitment beautifully. Each of the 36 homes we’ve built here reflects our dedication to not just meeting but exceeding expectations in contemporary urban living.
“As we welcome our new council tenants, shared owners, and homeowners, it‘s a reminder of the impact thoughtful design and sustainability can have on people’s lives. Bridges Cross isn’t just a building. It’s a vibrant community in the making, and I look forward to seeing it thrive.”
Helen Horne, Managing Director of OX Place
“We are proud to have been part of this development. Creating sustainable, high quality and affordable homes for the Oxford community. It’s been a pleasure to help deliver the council’s housing development programme alongside them, where sustainability has been at the forefront, creating a new and upcoming community for the city.
Richard Poulter, Managing Director of Willmott Dixon