Oxford's Growing Pains - B4 Article Winter 2013

10/03/2014

In the last quarter there have 3 announcements which will have a radical impact on the future of Oxford economic development.

Firstly, the news in September that the Westgate Alliance, the joint venture of Land Securities Group and Crown Estates, have submitted an outline planning application for the long awaited Westgate redevelopment proposing new shops including a 100,000 sq ft John Lewis and 122 new homes. The aim is still to have this new development open by end 2017.

Secondly, in early November the Office of Rail Regulation gave the go ahead for the replacement of the Botley Road bridge and Oxford station redevelopment estimated at £70M to accommodate the East –West Rail project that will see trains connecting Oxford to Reading and Bedford, as well as the new Marylebone service. These works are estimated to be finished by 2019.

Thirdly, at the end of November Oxford City Council published the Oxpens Masterplan Supplementary Planning Document (SPD, which sets out guidance on how the policy framework in the West End Area Action Plan can be interpreted for the Oxpens site. This follows a period of public consultation over the summer and adds a further degree of detail and sets out the Council’s aspirations for the area. The site which includes land owned by Oxford City Council and British Rail Board amongst other has been master planned to accommodate over 750,000 sq ft of development in total including housing, student accommodation, office space and a hotel. The development timeframe depends on many other factors but could see development occurring from 2017 to 2019.

This proposed development is to be welcomed and will significantly enhance the Western quarter of Oxford which has stagnated for many years and is an embarrassment as a gateway to Oxford from the station. With the exception of the Said Business School this area has had little investment for decades. Oxford has a very bright future and all these developments will firmly return Oxford to the map as a place to shop, to travel to and to enjoy.

However, development does not come without pain and it is likely that there will be significant disruption to the west of Oxford during the next decade as we hope that the economy continues to grow. There is no gain without pain but it will require very careful management to ensure that the disruption to existing businesses in Oxford is minimised. The long term outcome though is very exciting.

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