Agenda item

Public participation

Asking a question and addressing the Partnership
Questions or requests to make an address (in full and in writing) must be received by 5pm on Tuesday 7 June, three clear working days before the Future Oxfordshire Partnership meeting.

Questions and addresses should be no longer than one side of A4 paper in Arial 12 font. The address or question will be circulated to the Partnership and public speakers will be invited to speak at the meeting. Written submissions may also be read out by the Chair or Democratic Services Officer where requested or if the person making the request for public speaking is not able to attend the meeting. A response may be given at the meeting or a written answer supplied. The Chair will have discretion to manage the public participation procedure as they see appropriate. Questions and notice of addresses must be submitted to


Note: This meeting may be recorded for live broadcast. At the start of the meeting the Chair will confirm the meeting is being filmed. By registering to speak you are consenting to being recorded and to the use of those video and audio recordings for webcasting.



John Hill asked a question about the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Regulation 18 Part 2 consultation. Along with others, he had questioned policy option 22 within the Plan consultation document, specifically a table on page 107 taken from the Oxfordshire Growth Needs Assessment, (OGNA) which set out five employment projections.  In his view, the time available for public consultation had been limited, and it had not been possible to obtain any detailed information as to the assumptions made in the preparation of the employment projections despite contacting the Oxfordshire Plan Team over an extended period as set out in his full written question.


The Partnership was asked to provide an answer to:


·           The assumptions behind the forecasts/ projections in the Oxfordshire Plan 2050.

·           In the table what are projections, what are forecasts and what are targets.

·           Were the projections/ forecasts still valid in view of the changed economic situation.

·           Are the forecasts/projections reliable enough to be any part of the evidence base for the Plan.


At the invitation of the Chair, Giles Hughes, Senior Responsible Officer for the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, and Chief Executive of West Oxfordshire District Council provided an initial response to the first question. He commented that the purpose of including projections within the Plan consultation document had been to help the public and councils understand the range of possible futures that might be planned for within the Oxfordshire Plan. It had not been the purpose of the consultation document to set out a definitive position or ‘right answer’, rather its purpose was to explain the range of scenarios. It was recognised that a review of the evidence base that would support the Plan would be necessary and this was an ongoing exercise in light of comments made during the consultation and also the current economic circumstances.


David Young asked a question on behalf of Need Not Greed Oxfordshire, (NNGO) in reference to the response given by the Partnership to a previous question. NNGO understood that final decisions around the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 would be taken by the individual councils. However, in NNGO’s opinion to suggest that individual councils would consider a peer review of the OGNA was not logical and that it was NNGO’s view that the Partnership could and should have a role in coordinating an OGNA peer review. The Partnership was asked: 


·           What is the project timetable for the Oxfordshire 2050 Plan?

·           What is the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 team currently working on?

·           How could they be developing a spatial strategy without agreeing the number of houses to be built?

·           How would criticisms of the growth options presented in the Oxfordshire Growth Needs Assessment and the Reg 18 consultation be addressed? 

·           What assessment has the Future Oxfordshire Partnership/Advisory Group made of the recently published report into the OGNA by Opinion Research Services which found that '“The unjustified use of adjustments made to official projections and the Standard Method together with the lack of a conventional central economic forecast call into question the soundness of this document as supporting evidence for the development of the Oxfordshire Plan”.

·           Would the Oxfordshire Plan Advisory Group be recommending a further Regulation 18 consultation?


Councillor Emily Smith responded to Mr Young’s question, also referring to the points raised by Mr Hill in his question. She indicated that the Partnership was grateful to all members of the public who had responded to the Regulation 18 Part 2 consultation. A wide range of views had been expressed which had been considered carefully including by the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Advisory Group.


It was now possible to confirm that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities had agreed that the timescale of the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 could be amended with the goal of submitting the Plan to HM Government before the end of December 2023 to undergo a public examination.  The examination timetable would then be in the hands of the planning inspector.  As a result of amendment of the timetable the opportunity was being taken to consider whether to undertake a further Regulation 18 Part 3 consultation. It was acknowledged that there had been a lull in information since the first Regulation 18 consultation, which had been frustrating for councillors as well as stakeholders and communication was something the advisory group are keen to improve.


Councillor Smith continued that with regard to the Plan’s evidence base, the comments made by NNGO and others had been heard and it was acknowledged that the Plan’s evidence needed to be up to date so additional work was being commissioned including that related to the OGNA to help inform plan policies. If the report written by Opinion Research Services regarding the OGNA was submitted as part of a future public consultation it could be taken into formal consideration and it was planned to publish a report explaining how the views of stakeholders had been taken on board at the previous Regulation 18 Part 2 consultation in helping to shape the current plan.


The Future Oxfordshire Partnership and its Oxfordshire Plan 2050 Advisory Group would continue to coordinate the programme and to seek consensus among members before any process of formal decision making which would take place within each city and district council through the usual processes of council meetings.  Although it was accepted that there were still some difficult conversations to come, it was worth reflecting that there was already a strong commitment among all the councils to an ambitious environment agenda in support of the Strategic Vision for Oxfordshire agreed by all councils in 2021.


At this point the Chair indicated that a grouped response would be given at the meeting to public questions and addresses submitted to the Partnership in relation to proposed changes to the Homes from Infrastructure Programme in light of the similar nature of the points made. 


Robin Tucker had submitted an address on behalf of the Coalition for Health Streets and Active Travel, (CoHSAT) which was taken as read at the meeting in his absence. The address highlighted the poor current condition of the Banbury Road and Woodstock Road with regards to walking, wheeling, and cycling and called for the proposed decision relating to the reallocation of funding from the Banbury Road and Woodstock Road, Oxford schemes to other schemes within the Homes from the Infrastructure Programme to not be supported.


Peter Barnett had submitted an address which was taken as read at the meeting in his absence. The address expressed the view that the reallocation of funding from the Banbury Road and Woodstock Road schemes to schemes which upgraded roads optimally for motor vehicles was nonsensical and would encourage more vehicles and congestion. Mr Barnett called for the diversion of funding from road projects to those supporting active travel and a change in mindset to infrastructure policy and design which prioritises a re-allocation of road space from motor vehicles to active travel.


Councillor Charlie Hicks, Oxfordshire County Council referred to what he considered to be a paradox between the stated corporate priorities of Oxfordshire County Council around putting the climate emergency at the heart of its work through investment in an inclusive, integrated, and sustainable transport network and the proposed reallocation of funding from the Banbury Road and Woodstock Road schemes. The Partnership was asked how the proposals were considered to be in line with publicly-made statements on Climate and Sustainable, Inclusive, and Integrated transport pledges and when decisions and budget allocations made by the Partnership and Oxfordshire County Council reflect the ambition and rhetoric put out about Climate and Transport?


Mary Kroll made an address in which she stated that decent cycling provision was urgently needed on the Northern radial route both for local traffic and for commuters into Oxford from the new housing developments to the north-west of the city. The Woodstock Road corridor was particularly suitable, as it had relatively few side roads. With a fast safe continuous cycle route, pedal or electric cycling would be an attractive choice for commuters. The co-production of the proposals which had many local groups had intended to embody the best principles of local planning and it was regarded to be perverse and waste of that effort to cancel the projects at this stage.


Graham Smith made an address in which he objected to the proposals regarding the Banbury Road and Woodstock Road schemes as a Cyclox and Cycling UK member and in light of his former professional background in teaching urban design. He made the point that the Banbury and Woodstock Roads as major axes could and should be carrying significantly more active travel movements which would encourage a modal shift in support of local and national polices. Even with the Central Oxfordshire Transport Strategy the roads needed segregated provision to generate greater levels of cycling and the re-allocation of the funding from the schemes would likely end the project and dilute the likely improvement for those roads. The project had been exceptional for its focus on coherence and continuity of cycling and would help promote fairness in transport, healthy travel to schools and travel by protected user groups. Attention was also drawn to the hidden and visible equality related aspects of the schemes and impacts of cancellation including pollution and climate change. The schemes followed the LTN1/20 ‘Gear Change’ guidance in contrast with current major County Council schemes which were rooted in out of date guidance. Concerns were also raised in relation to the Kidlington Roundabout project. 


Sebastian Balcombe asked a question on behalf of Oxford University Development Ltd which referred to the Oxfordshire County Council’s Healthy Travel Strategy which set out that it planned to increase the number of cycle trips in Oxfordshire from 600,000 to 1 million cycle trips per week by 2031 and that the Oxford Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan had identified two targets to increase both commuter cycling and all cycling trips in Oxford by 50% by 2031. To achieve these targets, there needed to be 25,000 new cyclists, including 9,000 everyday cyclists and 8,000 weekly cyclists in Oxford by 2031. The Partnership was asked how these targets would be met if funding for key cycle corridors such as Woodstock Road Corridor / Banbury Road Corridor were reallocated?


Councillor Laurence Fouweather, Oxford City Council made a statement expressing strong support for the retention of the Banbury Road and Woodstock Road schemes within the Housing from Infrastructure Programme and expressing concern over what was felt to be a lack of democratic oversight over the proposals to remove the schemes from the Homes from Infrastructure programme. Concern was expressed that the roads were used by many residents including children on their way to school with no or little segregation from commuter traffic and that the money and resources already directed to the scheme would be lost if the schemes were removed. It was felt that the existing infrastructure in Banbury Road and Woodstock Roads was inadequate to cope with new developments and that Oxford despite its promotion as a cycling city, compared poorly with countries such as Belgium. 


Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council thanked everyone that had submitted questions and addresses regarding the proposed changes to the Home from Infrastructure programme. Councillor Leffman commented that she agreed with the points made that there was a need for sustainable, active travel across the whole county, but that the Banbury Road and Woodstock Road schemes were not being cancelled and would be delivered. Unfortunately, because of the circumstances of the last couple of years including the impact of Covid and inflationary pressures, it was necessary to review the programme in light of the current available resources and the time available to deliver it. The schemes had originally been added to the HfI programme in 2018 and the situation had changed significantly since then. If funds were not used within the parameters of the programme, they had to be returned to HM Government and it was not considered likely based on previous experience that HM Government would agree to any extension.


Several of the points raised had mentioned the need to work with other partners across Oxford and the county to find alternative funding for the schemes and there was a commitment to do so, but HM Government was not the only option. Discussions would be held with a number of partners across the county including a number of the large developers involved in projects on the outskirts of Oxford in a way that would support the delivery of those developments in the required timeframe.


If the schemes had been at a more advanced stage, it was likely that they to would also be facing significant cost pressures and it was stressed that it was not the case that funds were being taken out of Active Travel schemes and diverted to road bearing scheme. There were other Active Travel schemes around the county to which the funds would be reallocated to including the Banbury Tramway improvements and The North Oxford Corridor (Cassington) projects.


In terms of the points made relating to environmental considerations, these were being looked at closely and all the North Oxford Corridor schemes included an opportunity for bio-diversity net gain, particularly the Cassington project where opportunities to improve on low value vegetation that currently exists with more varieties that are species rich were being examined. Part of the reason for additional money being requested for NOC Kidlington was a revised design to retain existing mature trees on the roundabout. The Banbury Tramway scheme was intended to reduce traffic, waiting times, and particularly idling on Cherwell Street, Banbury. Funds from the HfI programme were not being diverted into the A40 project as this had its own separate funding and was focussed on bus travel.


The good work undertaken in the co-production of the Banbury Road and Woodstock Road scheme would not be lost and would be factored into the Central Oxfordshire Transport Strategy, (COTS). It was correct that COTS was not funded at present to deliver its eventual outputs but it was collective thinking that will allow future bids for funding and also work with others across the county.


As with all previous changes to Housing and Growth Deal funding allocations, it was recognised there were hard and difficult decisions, but the Partnership was bound by the criteria and limitations of the original deal signed up to.


Given the changing construction environment the recommendations should not be viewed or represented as moving away from Active Travel priorities. Rather they were designed to maximise the delivery of Active Travel schemes across Oxfordshire - within the limitations of the Housing and Growth Deal – and also enabling COTS to take a more holistic view of the overall traffic issues in Oxford (and beyond) - including the Wolvercote Roundabout as highlighted in some of the submissions.


Councillor Brown welcomed Councillor Leffman’s response and commented that a contributory factor to the present situation was the time limited nature of the Housing and Growth Deal, notwithstanding the significant benefits it had brought in terms of additional funding and transport infrastructure for Oxfordshire. It was acknowledged that the Housing and Growth Deal had never been a panacea for a strategic approach to transport and investment in Active Travel. Oxford City Council was committed to seeking to find alternative funding for cycling, public transport, and Active Travel. Those involved in the co-production of the schemes were thanked and it was stressed that this work would not be lost. The City Council still wished to see improved bus and active provision on the Banbury and Woodstock Road Corridor and these remained vital in dealing with existing issues and the impact of future development. It was important that a strategic approach was taken to improving transport in and around Oxford. The recognition in the paper of the work to assess the cost pressures facing the Oxpens Bridge project was welcomed and that a further change report would be brought to the Partnership in due course.


The Chair also endorsed the remarks made by Councillor Leffman, commenting that the Partnership had been faced with similar issues before as a result of the need to reallocate funding from one scheme to another. He also emphasised that the Housing and Growth Deal has always been designed to encourage housing and that construction costs for all capital projects were rising. Faced with this, it was necessary for infrastructure programmes to be reviewed.

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