AN ENTIRELY new city of more than 30,000 houses south of Oxford is being proposed for land previously earmarked for a £1bn reservoir.
But “Oxford Garden City”, the brainchild of one planning consultant working on behalf of a consortium of landowners, is already being dismissed as “pie in the sky”.
The new conurbation would slot between the Hanneys and Abingdon, where Thames Water formerly wanted to build a reservoir.
Planning consultant Ken Dijksman delivered an outline of the scheme to Vale of White Horse District Council as part of the consultation on its new Local Plan for development.
The land proposed is more than 2,000 hectares, outside the Oxford green belt, and not part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Mr Dijksman, acting on behalf of several landowners who he wouldn’t name, said: “At the moment we have a national problem in terms of economy and house building.
“Oxford Garden City solves the future housing, employment and infrastructure problems of Oxford, South Oxfordshire District, the Vale of White Horse and the whole county for 30 years.
“This site can accommodate over 30,000 houses and hundreds of hectares of employment land.”
The Government’s South East Plan for Oxfordshire, adopted in 2009, required 55,200 houses to be built in the 20 years to 2026.
However, the targets in that plan were abandoned earlier this year, and will be replaced by a Strategic Housing Market Assessment, due to be conducted by all five district councils this year.
Mr Dijksman said Abingdon has a population of around 36,000 and Letchworth Garden City, in Hertford-shire – one of the first of its kind – has a population of 33,000.
Deputy leader of Oxfordshire County Council Rodney Rose said that Oxford had a problem with expansion, but this was not the solution.
He said: “The proposal for the eco-town wasn’t welcomed in Cherwell, so a garden city has been objected to at least once in Oxfordshire.
“The problem with Oxfordshire is that Oxford can’t make itself bigger, but I don’t think a garden city is the solution.
“He is making an assumption that other areas don’t want housing, which is not correct. Carterton and Bicester both want new houses.”
Between 1990 and 2011, Thames Water tried to get permission to build a £1bn reservoir on the land before the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) rejected the bid.
Oxford city councillor and chairman of the East Area Planning Committee Roy Darke said: “Everyone is agreed, expansion is a problem for Oxford and, in principle, this is a good idea.
“Oxford needs to expand, we have a thriving economy. Oxfordshire’s economy is generated from Oxford.
“But what we really need is housing that would be close to the centre.
“I would rather see small expansions around Oxford.”
Vale of White Horse District Council leader Matthew Barber said: “There is no realistic thought given to infrastructure, new schools or how it would be funded.
“It will obviously go through the official channels of our Local Plan, but anyone can see it is a pie in the sky.”
Mr Dijksman, based in Newbury, said it would be at least 10 years before construction could start. He said: “There are geographical advantages which make development on this area almost inevitable. This is not going to go away.”
For the scheme to go ahead, planning permission would need to be granted for any part of the new town and developers found to build it.
- The garden city movement started in the late 19th century in the wake of increasing urbanisation. Attempts to create settlements which balanced development and open space were pioneered at Letchworth, Welwyn Garden City and Hampstead.