Introducing the Oxfordshire Plan 2050

INFRASTRUCTURE CONSIDERATIONS

60 It is vital that when planning for a sustainable future, full account is taken of the infrastructure needs associated with new development and infrastructure required to improve existing networks to accommodate growth.

61 The successful delivery of the housing and economic growth within the Oxfordshire Plan will require a strategic approach with infrastructure delivery, particularly transport and environmental planning. Many towns and roads in Oxfordshire struggle during peak times with average annual traffic flows increasing year on year. The Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy (OXIS) was prepared on behalf of the Oxfordshire Growth Board to provide a view of emerging development and infrastructure requirements to support growth from 2016 to 2031 and beyond. This work will be reviewed alongside the production of the Plan.

62 Improving connectivity, digital access, public transport networks, high quality walking and cycling access to transport hubs and reducing congestion are critical to delivering a highly functioning transport network in Oxfordshire which will in turn support economic growth by improving the movement of people and commercial goods. We must also acknowledge the importance of wider community infrastructure including schools, health and leisure facilities and basic utilities including water, sewerage and energy.

Key regional projects

63 During the period of the plan there are several large-scale infrastructure projects that are likely to come forward including the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, East-West rail and the projects emerging from Thames Water's strategy for improving water supply, particularly the South East Strategic Reservoir Option for Oxfordshire.

64 Decisions on each of these will have an impact upon how and in what way Oxfordshire should and is able to grow. The big challenge for the Oxfordshire Plan is the different timescales of these projects and how the Plan should respond to them or how the Plan can influence them. We are working with decision makers to identify the ways in which projects can relate and interlink with the Oxfordshire Plan.

Transport connectivity

65 Planned transport infrastructure in Oxfordshire (for the earlier part of the Oxfordshire Plan) is set out in the Oxfordshire Local Transport Plan and reflected in the Oxfordshire Infrastructure Strategy. This facilitates movements of different modes of transport around the county's road and rail network and is aimed at increasing the capacity of the network, improving cycle networks and mitigating the impact of vehicular traffic on the local environment. These planned interventions will contribute to addressing existing issues of congestion and poor air quality and mitigate the impact of 100,000 new homes already planned for in existing and emerging Local Plans.

66 However, there is still a funding gap and deliverability issues for many strategic projects and so their delivery is not guaranteed. A bold, forward thinking Oxfordshire Plan that sets a clear vision for growth is more likely to release opportunities for Government funding and will help direct local authority funding and developer funding (Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106) income to the projects that are priorities for supporting growth. The Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal also states that the Oxfordshire authorities will explore the potential for a countywide Strategic Infrastructure Tariff, to increase the flexibility of the developer contribution system, and encourage cross boundary planning to support the delivery of strategic infrastructure.

67 The Plan should recognise that technology will differ dramatically later in the plan period than it does now and this is likely to have a significant bearing on lifestyle choices and opportunities to travel in different ways. Electric vehicle use is already expanding and is likely to be common place by the 2030's. Innovation is already taking place in the development of autonomous vehicles which are likely to become a feature on the highway network in the coming years.

68 However, the Plan and the decisions on supporting infrastructure also needs to get the basics right as well as planning for future technologies. Public transport (in whatever form might be available in the future) must be able to function efficiently and reliably with priority at junctions and on shared road spaces and utilising smart technology. The design of developments should encourage the use of public transport and provide connections to encourage people to walk and cycle to jobs, services and transport hubs and improve connectivity to the county's accessible greenspaces.

Digital connectivity

69 Digital connectivity of people, things and places through broadband and mobile telecommunications has increased and improved dramatically in recent years. The ability for people to access services and perform tasks from anywhere at any time via connected devices has meant a dramatic change in human behaviour. Further growth in these technologies will require improved capacity.

70 With planned rollout of fibre networks to rural areas around Oxfordshire, communities will be better connected than ever before. By 2050, digital connectivity improvements in tandem with other technological advances are likely to have transformational effects on lifestyles, employment, access to services and the way in which people interact with one another.

71 The Oxfordshire Plan should be mindful of such transformational technology as it is likely to affect the way in which people physically move around the county, with potential implications for land use patterns and the design of homes and offices in both urban and rural areas. To support connected and included communities the Oxfordshire Plan should push for consistently being at the cutting edge of world-leading digital connectivity.

Energy

72 With technological advancements in transport and digital connectivity, more houses, businesses and an increasing population, the supply and demand of energy across the county is a key issue to be addressed. In addition to this, tighter environmental regulations mean that the energy generated must be greener to reduce carbon emissions.

73 The existing grid for distributing energy around the county is constrained and the Oxfordshire Energy Strategy is considering ways in which the network can be strengthened. In the future energy networks will be based around decentralised and community energy provision. The Oxfordshire Plan must therefore facilitate a shift towards lower energy demand and low carbon forms of energy development.

74 Much of the development in Oxfordshire to 2050 will be comprised of residential development so opportunities must be sought to improve the energy efficiency of homes and reduce energy demands of households. It will be important for new developments to maximise energy efficiency whilst integrating renewable and smart energy technologies in order to minimise energy demand.

Social infrastructure

75 Planning for school places and health services are critical elements of delivering successful places. Population growth if not planned carefully, can add pressure on services for new and existing residents. There is a strong level of provision of school places (and special needs school places) throughout Oxfordshire with existing schools being extended and new schools being planned to support growth. Cherwell in particular has the largest available capacity of the five local authorities. The highest concentrations of primary schools are within Oxford, and the main towns including Didcot, Banbury and Bicester. In certain settlements (e.g. Witney, Bicester, and Oxford City) there are clusters of schools which either have a current deficit of provision, or have fewer than 10 places available and where new schools are being planned.

76 There are some areas of the County which geographically show a lack of secondary education providers (e.g.North West Oxfordshire), however given wider catchments for secondary schools, and that secondary age pupils can be expected to travel further to access schools; there is good access to secondary education provision across the County. Notably, there is very little evidence of deficiency in provision, with only one area (Oxford City) which has a school with a deficit in secondary places, and three others (one in South Oxfordshire and two in Cherwell) which have less than ten places available.

77 The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group oversees GP and other primary and acute healthcare, they anticipate delivering new primary care services 'at scale' rather than through a number of small practice sites. This offers more opportunities to deliver more services, although it should be noted that there will be strategic sites where a smaller GP practice will be essential. It will also be necessary for the traditional GP to change to adapt to the demands of modern healthcare.

78 One of the biggest impacts on social care services is likely to be from an ageing population. Oxfordshire's Joint Health & Wellbeing Board have an aspiration to shift the focus of care from nursing homes to the assisted living (extra care) approach. There are already 13 schemes opened or under construction between 2011 and 2016 delivering an additional 656 extra care flats and a further 18 schemes proposed between 2016 and 2020 at a feasibility stage with the potential to deliver a further 1,238 extra care flats. This Board have an aspiration to deliver a considerable number of additional extra care housing places to meet the needs of Oxfordshire residents and to help to shift the focus of care from nursing homes to the assisted living approach.

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