Is the future bright for Oxford?

Is the future bright for Oxford?
 
Making tracks

19 June 2017, by Savills Research

Improving road and rail infrastructure in line with housing needs will provide better connections and could even unlock new land for development

 

Co-operation on housing and infrastructure is vital to maximise the economic potential of Oxford and for the benefits of growth to be felt by the whole county. However, this is easier said than done.

Measured by the market, the strategy of delivering new housing across the county has not offered a solution to Oxford’s housing need. House prices in Oxford have risen more rapidly than the rest of the county. Values in the city grew 47% in the past five years compared with 35% in the rest of the county. The county’s congestion levels and average commute times have also increased over that time.

FIGURE 3

Growth market – House prices in Oxfordshire have risen significantly in the past five years. Values in Oxford have increased by 47%, compared with 35% in the rest of the county

 
Figure 3

Source: Savills Research using Land Registry data

Better transport, better connections

If new homes are going to alleviate Oxford’s housing pressures and support its growth, then they should be as close and as well connected to the city as possible. The Oxfordshire Growth Board has recognised this and suggests a range of sites just ‘over the border’.

However, the Green Belt remains a barrier to development adjacent to the city. Without a Green Belt review, development is likely to follow the same pattern we have outlined, increasing the pressure both on Oxford’s house prices and transport infrastructure and making it a less attractive place to live and work.

New routes could open new land

Further afield, major transport infrastructure projects could open up new locations for development. Sites to the south of Oxford could see a huge benefit from the proposed rail extension to Cowley (which plans to re-open the freight line to passenger train services) as well as a transformational rerouting of the A34 – although, at the time of publication, this is very much at the drawing board stage.

More advanced plans include East-West road and rail links to Milton Keynes and beyond, resolving the situation where it was usually quicker to make such journeys via London.

If new settlements such as Garden Cities are going to be part of the solution to unmet housing need, from Oxford but potentially including overspill from London, major transport nodes offer a good opportunity for finding ‘new’ land.

Joining up housing and infrastructure will require cooperation between district and county councils, central government, and bodies such as the National Infrastructure Commission, which has identified the Oxford-Cambridge corridor as a priority.

FIGURE 4

Falling short – Although housing delivery in Oxfordshire increased by 24% last year, it was 25% short of requirements. More than two-thirds of new homes added were in Cherwell and Vale of White Horse. In Oxford 370 new homes were built, the most since 2008/09

 
Figure 4

Source: DCLG, Oxfordshire SHMA

FIGURE 5

Brain drain – Student retention in Oxford trails behind the UK’s larger cities, such as London and Manchester, but is similar to Cambridge. When it comes to graduates employed in knowledge-intensive business services (KIBS), Oxford lags some way behind its rival Cambridge and the other major cities

 
Figure 5

Source: Centre for Cities

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