Protest response statement and policy summary

Oxford North Central Park

Further to the proposed planned protest at St Giles on Friday 19 March 2021, a spokeswoman for Thomas White Oxford (TWO) said:

“We are aware of a planned protest at St Giles on Friday 19 March 2021. TWO respects the right to protest.

“Many of the concerns raised by the Wolvercote group have been addressed during the lengthy processes of public consultation and public examination that have taken place in relation to this proposal over the last decade.

"Both TWO and St John’s College have been in contact with a representative of the group to address their recently-expressed concerns.

“TWO’s proposals realise the vision defined for the site in Oxford City Council’s Area Action Plan. This vision is for Oxford North to be a new district for the city.

"Subject to completion of the final stages of planning, we will be curating an exciting new place providing labs and offices, much-needed new homes, and sustainable transport mode connectivity, along with three new public parks totalling 23 acres, and planting 1,000 new trees, all of which we will believe will be essential to our social life, our health and part of the economic recovery.”

Recent correspondence

A representative of a group of local residents recently wrote to St John's College with concerns about the Oxford North project.

William Donger, on behalf of Thomas White Oxford, replied in writing answering the concerns raised. You can read the letter here.

A second letter was written, to which Professor Andrew Parker, on behalf of the College, replied. You can read the letter here.

TWO has been seeking to realise the vision defined for the site in Oxford City Council’s Area Action Plan of July 2015.

Oxford City Council has issued the following Oxford North statement: https://www.oxford.gov.uk/news/article/1752/statement_regarding_oxford_north

Oxford North will be a new business community for Oxford, with sustainability at its heart, providing: 4,500 new science and technology jobs, 480 new homes for circa 1,500 people, of which 35%, the equivalent of 168, will be affordable homes, small shops, bars and restaurants, hotel, circa 23 acres of open spaces including three new parks, and significant investment into the walking, cycling, bus and highway networks.

Oxford North will boost the economy by circa £150 million per year.

Setting out the planning policy position for Oxford North

The site was first identified as the location for an employment-led development in the City Council’s Core Strategy document adopted in 2011. 

Before the Core Strategy was adopted by the Council, it had been the subject of public consultation and an independent examination that took place between July and September 2009 and a further hearing in September 2010.

The section of the inspector’s report that addressed the Northern Gateway (as it was previously known) include the following:

  • homes/jobs balance;
  • provision of employment;
  • sustainability of the location;
  • highways and traffic;
  • character and setting;
  • Green Belt land;
  • habitat impact
  • other impacts.

The inspector concluded that the site should be allocated in the Core Strategy for employment-led development and this recommendation as adopted by the City Council in 2011.

The content and scale of the allocation was subject to further consultation and examination, through the preparation of the Northern Gateway Area Action Plan (AAP).  The examination hearings took place in public in March 2015 and addressed a number of matters, including the following:

  • whether the site is on the undeveloped flood plain;
  • whether the development would result in the loss of a designated ecological feature;
  • whether development would detract from the landscape setting or special character of Oxford;
  • whether the AAP is sound in relation to the natural environment, including the Oxford Meadows Special Area of Conservation, with reference to Hydrology and Air quality
  • whether the AAP is sound with regards to the effects on human health from air quality and vibration.

In addition to this extensive and detailed examination that has been led by the City Council, TWO has carried out extensive public consultation over a number of years, prior to submitting the planning application in July 2018. 

Relevant to the issues raised by the local group of Wolvercote residents, the planning application includes an extensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The EIA assesses key technical matters including air quality, flood risk, traffic and views.

Since its submission in 2018, the Planning Application has been subject to public consultation led by the City Council and the technical reports reviewed by the relevant statutory consultees.

This culminated in Oxford City Council’s Planning Review Committee held on 19 December 2019 at which Members reviewed the details of the planning application and ultimately resolved to approve TWO’s planning application.

Since then, we have been in legal discussions with both Oxford City Council as the planning authority and Oxfordshire County Council as the highways authority to finalise the Section 106 Agreement.

The Section 106 Agreement is the mechanism used to ensure that our planning proposals are properly integrated into local community and infrastructure needs addressed.

In addition, the scheme will pay the Community Infrastructure Levy, a proportion of which Oxford City Council collects and ring-fences for infrastructure projects identified by the local community.

The draft legal agreement is now publicly available on Oxford City Council’s planning portal and reflects the terms approved by Members at the Planning Committee meeting in December 2019.

Also, we have been in discussions with Oxfordshire County Council to progress works that are necessary to improve the public highways. We have been working with the City, the County, and Highways England to ensure proposals meet policy, design and safety requirements.

In the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment, people can read more about how, subject to planning, the project will be promoting biodiversity and ecological improvements.

Specifically, there is a site-wide ecology strategy that seeks to draw together the planting strategy with the Sustainable Drainage Strategy (SuDS).

- New native hedgerow planting will create opportunities for wildlife food and shelter.

- Swales and ponds will form part of the site-wide SuDS, creating further habitat and biodiversity opportunities and across the site, planting will include bird, bat and insect-friendly species that will contribute to the Oxfordshire Biodiversity Action Plan.

- We will be retaining broad-leaved trees and supplementing with a range of broad-leaved species.

For more information, please visit Oxford City Council's planning portal, planning application number: 18/02065/OUTFUL.

Update: 24 March 2021. Oxford City Council has granted TWO planning permission for Oxford North. You can read the news story here.