THE traffic chaos in Oxford will only get worse unless the city expands, the council’s head of housing has warned.
David Edwards, executive director for city regeneration, spoke after weeks of traffic problems due to roadworks including Kennington Roundabout and London Road in Headington.
He said: “The current roadworks, when completed, will provide some additional capacity and improve traffic flows in the short term.”
But he said the city’s housing need was forecast to grow by around 10 per cent over the next decade and added: “There is not sufficient capacity in the existing transport infrastructure to meet all this growth.”
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It comes as figures reveal half of all Oxford’s workers live outside the city and commute in.
The 2011 census, the latest research available, shows that 46 per cent of the workforce, or 46,000 people, poured into the city.
According to a new National Housing Federation report Oxford is the second least affordable place to live in the south east with the average house price in Oxford at £381,000 – 15 times the average wage of £25,600.
A report commissioned by Oxfordshire’s councils shows that Oxford needed 28,000 new homes by 2031 but Mr Edwards said very few of these would fit within the city’s existing boundaries.
Earlier this month it was revealed that no affordable homes were completed in the city last year.
The city council has long wanted to expand beyond its boundaries, including a 4,000 home development on land it owns south of Grenoble Road but this lies in the Green Belt and in South Oxfordshire, where the district council is opposed to such plans.
Motorists stuck in traffic last month during roadworks at Headington Roundabout
Picture: Greg Blatchford
Mr Edwards added: “People might talk about tunnels (for busways) under the city but the real answer comes back to where do people live and work?
“Most people will continue to work in the city and if they don’t live in the city too, everybody’s journeys will only get worse.”
Stuart Crook, a partner with Oxford accountants Wellers in King Edward Street, said the recent traffic problems have meant some of their staff have to leave home an hour earlier than usual.
He said: “We are paying the price for lack of action and investment in the past from those in charge.”
Kate Allen, from recruitment firm Allen Associates says she opted for offices on the ring road because it was easier to get to.
But she said: “For the first time in 16 years of business we had to email and sit down with our staff to let them know ‘we understand and appreciate what you are going through – all of us are struggling to get in’.”
Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said the city had a “very poor transport system.”
He added: “It’s not a new problem, this has been a problem for the past decade and there are no short-term answers “ Mr Edwards said the solution had to focus on balanced growth including urban extensions.
David Nimmo Smith, the county cabinet member for transport, said he didn’t see how building on Green Belt land outside of Oxford would help: “How are people going to cycle from Grenoble Road?”
But Andrew Smith, Labour MP for Oxford East, said: “More than 20,000 people are driving through the Green Belt every day to get into Oxford to work.
“It would be much better if we could have more housing in central Oxfordshire, nearer to where the jobs are, and more environmentally friendly transport solutions for people’s journey to work. The jobs are in Oxford because of the fantastic success of the work undertaken in both private and public sectors, for example in our hospitals, universities, the Mini plant, publishing and many other businesses.
“It would be economic suicide to try and force these activities to move somewhere else. It is terrible for people on lower incomes to be priced out of their own city.”
Ian Hudspeth, the leader of the county council, who recently put forward the idea of building tunnels underground to ease congestion, said Mr Edwards should look at building more affordable homes within the city’s boundaries.
'TRAVEL TIMES MUST BE IMPROVED'
Digital marketing manager Peter Meinertzhagen, 27, below, takes an hour-and-a-half bus journey each way from his home in Chipping Norton to New Road in Oxford.
He said: “It’s fine but it’s an incredibly long journey, mainly due to the Peartree roundabout
“By the time we get there, the traffic is so heavy, we sit there for a good 20 minutes.
“It’s a lot easier to find a job in Oxford than anywhere else in the county. But they do significantly need to improve the travelling times from places like Chipping Norton and Witney because Oxford is too expensive to live.”
'SIX MILES CAN TAKE TWO HOURS'
Trainee accountant at Wellers, Henrietta Hale, below, works near Oxford’s High Street. The 20-year-old drives to Redbridge park and ride from her home in Abingdon, before taking a bus into the centre.
She said: “It’s only six miles from where I live so you’d think it would be really convenient to get to. But some days it takes me two hours.
“I couldn’t afford to live in Oxford, the prices are ridiculous. The traffic was bad when I started in 2012 but it has been getting worse and now it’s just out of control.”
GREEN BELT HOLDS ANSWER TO EXTRA HOMES
OXFORD’S housing needs could be met by building on just one per cent of the Green Belt, David Edwards has said. The city council’s new assessment of potential sites identifieds some 350 areas including the 3.5 acre Summer Fields School athletics site in Summertown.
Land opposite the Redbridge park and ride has been identified for 197 new homes despite the prospect of costly flood mitigation work and the need for a new junction.
A second Green Belt site has been identified at Frideswide Farm, north of the city, near the Water Eaton park-and-ride, where 125 homes could be built.
Outside the city, Oxford City Council has identified Green Belt sites south of Grenoble Road; at Wheatley; Wick Farm, Barton; land south of Kidlington; Yarnton and north of Abingdon.
The city council says the land assessment provides irrefutable proof of the limited building capacity within the city, as it faces an ever worsening housing crisis.
While the number of so called “windfall sites” within the city boundaries has more than doubled, sites have been found for only 10,292 homes, leaving it well short of Oxford’s housing need requirement of up to 32,000 by 2031, set out in the Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment.
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