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Housing matters

A row of cottages in west Oxfordshire A row of cottages in west Oxfordshire Photo: © Jane Tomlinson

In Oxfordshire more than half of us live in small towns or villages. We need to plan carefully, appropriately and wisely to build the homes we need.


We support the aspiration for more sustainable, affordable housing. But for eco-towns to be truly sustainable they must be built and planned appropriately. CPRE Oxfordshire led a concerted campaign against the proposed eco-town at ‘Weston Otmoor'. We argued that the eco-town label was a smokescreen for making house-building on green fields appear more palatable.

Affordable rural housing

Affordable rural housing should both enrich communities and not threaten the character of villages and small market towns. We use these principles when we examine planning policies and applications:

  1. Often, affordable housing is only a percentage of a larger development, so for developers affordable housing is an “add-on” rather than a priority.  A percentage may be the only way for local authorities to meet targets but they should be encouraged to look at other models.
  2. Where local authorities have already set affordable housing percentages in their Local Plans, we encourage them to stick to more ambitious targets and not buckle in the face of the developers’ pleas for a higher percentage of market housing.
  3. Smaller developments are less likely to meet with local resistance. Estates should not be created that, by virtue of their size or location, are difficult to integrate with existing communities.
  4. Sticking a small estate of affordable houses on the edge of a village does not aid social inclusion and makes life even harder for the less affluent or elderly. Sites in village centres or where it is proposed to convert existing buildings are precious and should be developed to at least the same density as currently used for market housing.
  5. We urge local authorities not to allow schemes with the right to buy. Shared equity is the best option for those that wish to progress to market housing.
  6. Standards of design and build for affordable rural housing should be at least as good as that for market housing. Since affordable housing does not have to worry about resale, it could be more adventurous architecturally. Houses must economical and sustainable to run and maintain.

Oxford city

In the past decade Oxford's population has risen to more than 150,000, and plans to build more than 8,000 homes over the next 15 years will push this figure beyond 170,000. Much of this development is destined for greenfield sites including playing fields, allotments and nature parks.

While there is a need for new affordable homes in the city, national planning law dictates that areas of open spaces should only be allocated for development if they are not required for the wellbeing of the community they serve. We argue that in an increasingly crowded city, green spaces will become of even greater value to its residents. Green spaces provide recreation space, sports facilities, food-growing areas and access to nature as well as priceless ecosystem services, such as stormwater attenuation, air temperature mitigation, the removal of pollutants from the atmosphere, carbon storage and sequestration and noise abatement.

CPRE's Oxford district group work hard to protect the city's green spaces, many of which help to give the city its uniquely beautiful character. For example, we worked closely with the Friends of Warneford Meadow who campaigned for Town Green status for Warneford Meadow in east Oxford; the meadow and orchard were finally registered as a Town Green in May 2010. We are currently working closely with the Friends of Oxpens Meadow in their campaign to get part of Oxpens Meadow, in west Oxford, registered as a Town Green. In 2012, we held an art exhibition to draw attention to the green spaces in the city in danger of being lost forever.

Latest news

Keep up to date with the latest news about housing in Oxfordshire here.

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