For action: To consider the outcome of a periodic review by Oxfordshire County Council of the current cost and programme projections for the schemes included with the Housing and Growth Deal Infrastructure Programme and proposed changes to the programme.
The Partnership considered a report setting out the results of the latest six month review by Oxfordshire County Council of the cost and delivery profiles of schemes within the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal Infrastructure Programme.
Owen Jenkins, Director of Growth and Economy at Oxfordshire County Council, highlighted that the A4095 Howes Lane scheme had been identified in previous monitoring reports with a red RAG risk rating because of a slowdown in the delivery of accelerated housing associated with the scheme and because of insufficient funding available to deliver it. It was proposed to re-allocate the funding currently allocated to the A4095 Howes Lane Scheme within the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal Infrastructure Programme to the A34 Lodge Hill interchange scheme and the Milton Heights Pedestrian and Cycle bridge. As result of the changes, it was expected that there would be a net increase in the delivery of 200 homes accelerated by the provision of infrastructure.
Mr Jenkins commented that throughout the programme review process, relevant officers had worked closely with colleagues at Cherwell District Council about the A4095 Howes Lane scheme and that they would continue to do so in order to find alternative funding solutions and delivery routes to provide the scheme.
Councillor Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council commented that the County Council Cabinet would be formally considering the changes in due course, but that she fully understood the concerns felt within the Bicester community regarding the proposed removal of the Howes Lane scheme from the infrastructure programme and housing development in the area. However, given the time sensitive nature of funding for the Infrastructure Programme through the Deal and the need to make the most effective use of the funds, the Infrastructure Advisory Group had agreed that it was necessary to re-allocate the funding. The County Council would continue to look at alternative ways in which the strategic road network in Bicester could be supported.
Councillor Smith commented that she also understood and appreciated the concerns of the Bicester community regarding the removal of the Howes Lane scheme, but that given the pressures around the Lodge Hill interchange she supported the re-allocation of the funds to that scheme. The issue did though highlight the strict conditionality around of use of funds within the Housing and Growth Deal.
The Vice-Chair supported these comments and added that the time sensitive nature of the parcels of funding to accelerate housing delivery though Deal meant that it was necessary to make a decision in order to ensure funding remained available for schemes within Oxfordshire as a whole. It was also important to understand that re-allocation of funding from the Deal away from the Howes Lane scheme did not mean a cancellation of the scheme and partners would continue to need to work together to deliver it.
Councillor Brown added that when members of the Housing Advisory Group had considered the housing implications of the proposed changes, they had expressed disappointment, but had acknowledged the changes were necessary to make the best use of available resources and keep funding within the county. This was consistent with the history of the councils’ collaboration through Future Oxfordshire Partnership to reallocate funding between projects if necessary.
RESOLVED: That the Future Oxfordshire Partnership endorse the proposed changes to the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal Infrastructure Programme as recommended by Oxfordshire County Council as follows:
1. the removal of further funding from a scheme currently within the H&GD – the A4095 [Howes Lane] re-alignment
2. re-allocating this funding, to introduce a scheme presently outside the H&GD – the A34 Lodge Hill interchange.
3. Increasing funding to Milton Heights Pedestrian and Cycle Bridge to cover a cost pressure.