The Oxfordshire Growth Board announces the Oxfordshire councils and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) have reached an outline Housing and Growth Agreement with Government. This will see an additional £215 million of investment over the next five years to build infrastructure, support the delivery of new homes and boost economic productivity across the county.
The ambitious and comprehensive investment programme will help deliver sustainable development with a focus on quality of place and more affordable housing. It will be overseen by the Growth Board, working in partnership with the Homes and Communities Agency, the Highways Agency and other partners.
The Growth Board wants the five-year deal to be the first stage in a sustained partnership with Government to secure the ongoing investment needed to deliver properly planned growth and economic development over the coming years. This will support councils to achieve the ambition of 100,000 new homes across the county over the period 2011-2031, as identified through the 2014 countywide Strategic Housing Market Assessment and Local Plans.
The Government recognises the importance of Oxfordshire’s knowledge intensive economy for UK plc with two universities and unique research institutions. It has committed to work with OxLEP to develop a Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) to back Oxfordshire’s world class science and innovation assets and identify and grow new sectors. Support will also be provided to help scale up high-growth companies, to identify and address specific skills needs and to attract further investment and expansion of the Science Vale and Didcot Enterprise Zones.
Under the terms of the deal the Government will provide Oxfordshire’s six local authorities with £60 million of funding for affordable housing, £150 million of funding (£30m for five years) for infrastructure improvements that will benefit existing communities and unlock new development sites. Oxfordshire councils are already committing in excess of £340 million to infrastructure and housing investment over the period.
Government will also provide £5 million in capacity funding to help meet the costs of taking the investment programme forward. This will include the development of a Joint Strategic Spatial Plan, providing a county-wide integrated planning framework to guide the sustainable growth.
Separate bids to the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF), to support the development of the Didcot Garden Town, and West Oxfordshire and North of Oxford Garden Villages, are still being considered by Government with decisions expected in the new year.
Last week the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) published its report to Government on the Oxford-Cambridge arc. It advised on the need for long-term investment funding for new transport infrastructure to harness the region’s economic potential, to benefit local people and boost UK plc in a post-Brexit landscape.
Growth Board members will now work up a detailed delivery plan with the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Final agreement of the deal with Government will be subject to agreement by all six councils and OxLEP.
To aid timely delivery of planned infrastructure and housing the Government has committed to provide greater freedoms and flexibilities for Oxfordshire councils to help prevent speculative development. The HCA will also help ensure the volumes of land needed for development across the county are brought forward and work with councils on longer term solutions to make sure sites are built out.
Achieving the long-term ambitions for planned growth in the country will require a sustained partnership approach. Growth Board members will seek further rounds of Government funding and private investment alongside local authority funds to support infrastructure and housing development.
Councillor Bob Price, Chair of the Oxfordshire Growth Board and Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “Today’s agreement is the basis for the next phase in Oxfordshire’s development – supporting the rapid growth of our economy and addressing the severe housing shortage we are facing. I want to pay tribute to the phenomenal work done across six councils and the LEP to get us to this point. And I now look forward to working with partners to deliver this investment in our county to benefit the people of Oxfordshire, and the wider UK economy.”
Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Oxfordshire is getting its act together to meet the real challenges of economic growth and providing homes for the people of Oxfordshire, now and for future generations. Now we need to quickly provide government with a credible plan for housing growth to get the cash. Longer term we need to produce a ‘spatial plan’ that recognises the importance of planning for jobs, homes and transport for Oxfordshire as a whole. For the first time, the different parts of Oxfordshire and the different interest groups within it will need to agree a vision for the future of the whole county that is in all our interests.”
Councillor Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “To be a successful district we must attract businesses that provide jobs and homes for local people and to do that we must firstly invest in the infrastructure to support this growth. This deal will help improve the connectivity, roads and transport links so we can accommodate the planned growth of the area and the demand this success will bring. District growth incorporates more than housing; it’s the economy, employment and skills sector that will be enhanced by the investment this deal will bring.”
Councillor James Mills, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Today’s budget announcement signals a significant step towards achieving infrastructure investment in Oxfordshire. Although work still needs to be done and decisions made, this is extremely welcome news as this level of investment would bring about major transport improvements and enable much-needed planned housing to be delivered, including additional affordable homes.”
Jeremy Long, Chairman of Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP), said: “This announcement is extremely welcome news, recognising the collaborative approach taken by the Oxfordshire Growth Board to ensure that not just the county – but the wider region – benefits from a programme of sustainable growth.
“Oxfordshire has continued to reaffirm a position of having a world-leading economy and today’s commitment from central government – to significantly invest in our region – is recognition of this and will mean we can focus with more certainty on delivering sustainable growth for the county, in a sensitive manner, with an infrastructure to match.”
The Oxfordshire Growth Board comprises the six councils: Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council, together with the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP).