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Have your say on the future of Oxfordshire: Strategic Vision open to comment

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 11:38

The publication for consultation of a Strategic Vison for Oxfordshire is a big win for CPRE Oxfordshire, which has campaigned for some time both in public and privately with Council Leaders for just such a consultation on broad aims and objectives as distinguished from the minutiae of the implementation Plan which is all we usually see.

 

You can find the survey on the Oxfordshire Open Thought website here.  The draft Strategic Vision for Oxfordshire is open to comment until 3rd January 2021.

Up to now the nature of a Council’s long terms vision has been hard to identify within the detailed Local Plans. Now, for the first time, we are asked whether the direction in which the Councils want to take us is the direction we want to go, before they have started the process of taking us there.

At its ultimate this is about pace of change. Whether all of us who live and work here share our Leaders Vision of our presently rural County becoming a growth hub, or whether we would prefer to protect more of what we have, especially more of Rural England.

We welcome not only the fact that there is at last to be a consultation on Oxfordshire’s future but also that objectives of the consultation are centred on establishing the wishes of those of us who actually live and work here and will be affected most. With the aim of establishing a forward strategy that:

“Is more Oxfordshire specific and reflects local people’s views” and “focusses on social economic and environmental well-being, not solely on a narrow definition of growth”. As well as being ambitious, radical, innovative, creative and prioritising climate change.

CPRE Oxfordshire will be evaluating the Vision and will shortly publish a response. However, one fly in the otherwise desirable ointment, has already appeared.

At the very time that the Oxfordshire Growth Board, the quasi-statutory body that actually directs all our Local Councils, is consulting on its Vision for Oxfordshire, it is also signing up to the Arc Leaders Group – led by Barry Woods our own leader of Cherwell. This group, which covers all five counties forming the notional Oxford Cambridge Arc, is in effect a higher-level version of our own Oxfordshire Growth Board.

The difference however, is that whilst the Oxfordshire Growth Board is solely related to Oxfordshire and its executive function is controlled by Oxfordshire elected Councillors, none of the members of the Arc Leaders Group are elected across the Arc to represent its residents. It does not even have the accountability of the Oxfordshire Growth Board, indirect as that is.

The Arc Leaders Group is also formulating a vision that at a meeting on Tuesday 17th November, was described as “disproportionate growth”. If the Arc Leaders Group is to mean anything, its members – including Oxfordshire – must subscribe to and implement its objectives.

How can that be compatible with Oxfordshire pursuing a strategy which is “Oxfordshire specific and reflects people’s views”? It is noteworthy that the County of Buckinghamshire, and its University, have left the Arc Leader’s Group for exactly that reason.

CPRE Oxfordshire agree with them. There is nothing good that the Arc Leaders Group could do which the Counties and Districts could not do individually, and a strategy imposed across the Arc by a group representing disparate Counties with different needs cannot be compatible with Oxfordshire forming and implementing a Vision of its own.

MIchael Tyce, CPRE campaigner

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