Roads, roads and more roads. This is the main thrust of a draft Infrastructure Strategy for Oxfordshire (OXIS). There is an “inevitable funding gap” between essential services for the future and the massive housing growth targetted at Oxfordshire. (All italicised quotes in this piece are taken from OxIS).
Oxfordshire’s Growth Board is striving for a 40% increase in population, an extra quarter of a million people, over the next couple of decades. How can it achieve this, when the Office for National Statistics predicts growth for Oxfordshire at only a third of that rate?
The Master Plan is for businesses to come up with 88,000 high-tech jobs, and for developers to build like fury (123,000 homes by 2040), making Oxfordshire ‘attractive’ to business people.
OxIS makes for scary reading. To support 40% more people, distributed over a rural county and supposedly all working in and near Oxford, we need more schools, social care, doctors, hospitals, electricity, gas, water, waste facilities, flood defences, and transport. All this, without further damaging the crucial natural resources of this beautiful county. OxIS defines infrastructure needs, and estimates the costs.
There will be a shortfall. There already is a shortfall, “an increasing gap between the expected rate of growth up to 2031 and the ability to deliver key infrastructure”. Half a million pounds have been secured for growth to 2040. This, against the (arguably ludicrously low) estimate of £9 billion to provide these services.
Lack of infrastructure has not stopped the house-building programme. This is where the oh-so-desired ‘growth’ is coming from. But we see no reduction in the price of homes, which are unaffordable for locals.
And housing is built in the wrong places. On 2 August 2017, an (unelected) Inspector (in Bristol) approved the building of 95 homes in Shiplake, in defiance of the local Neighbourhood Plan and the Council’s ruling, reversing a decision in 2011 that went right up to the Secretary of State.
And the wrong sort of housing is being built. Henley’s Neighbourhood Plan has been subverted by developers. They are building excessive numbers of care homes; and thereby avoiding making further contributions to the local area.
With a naturally ageing population, and new homes that attract retired wealthy folk from other counties, will we still have the vibrant high-tech economy we were expecting? We are heading to “a significant increase in the proportion of the population over the age of 70 years and…a decrease in the proportion of the population in working age”.
Even if we succeeded in attracting working-age people, it would be at the expense of other counties. Oxfordshire is “competing for employment growth with other successful areas”. Whilst we are still operating as one nation, this strikes a discordant note.
OxIS paints a bleak picture for the future of Oxfordshire. It takes today as the baseline from which to project similar services forwards for the increased population. ‘Today’ is a degraded form of the County, after 7 years of austerity and a halving in council budgets.
We have closed our children’s centres and our support services for dementia. OxIS predicts the halving in number of Further and Higher education colleges; and police stations, local hospitals and smaller GP practices to close. There is a “potential £200m funding gap” for health provision. Government has stopped the electrification of the railways.
We seem to have confused economic growth with ‘prosperity’. Unsupported housing growth in Oxfordshire is already degrading our living conditions and reducing the prosperity and wellbeing of our people.
If you want to comment on the infrastructure plan for Oxfordshire, the ‘consultation’ is out till the 2nd September 2017. (Right over the summer holidays)! My full critique is below.
Sue Roberts set up Green Lantern in January 2016, to advise Ed Vaizey, Wantage area MP.
We are eco-businesses covering most technologies, with turnovers ranging up to the multi-million pound mark. We are concerned at the existential threat to our livelihoods through erratic setting up and sudden unpredictable withdrawals of Government support.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency is a complex, high-tech field, vitally important for the UK economy, and for the UK to meet its carbon reduction goals. Reversals in policy have left the UK in a very weak position, and without a coherent Energy Policy.
Read more at drsueroberts.co.uk
Ecomorph retains its links into the community, and Sue works as a Sustainable Wallingford member to promote clean air in central Wallingford.