Oxfordshire County Council Leader responds to Government announcement on housing and growth
The Oxfordshire Growth Board has announced that the Oxfordshire councils and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) have reached an agreement with the Government for an additional investment of £215 million over the next five years to build infrastructure, deliver new homes and boost economic productivity across the county.
Read more about the announcement here
County Council Leader Ian Hudspeth writes:
Oxfordshire is getting its act together to meet the real challenges of economic growth and providing homes for the people of Oxfordshire, now and for future generations. The announcement in the autumn budget of funding for homes and infrastructure is the evidence.
The key that unlocks that growth is transport infrastructure – the connections that enable people to get to work, and encourage business and housing developers to invest. The government has committed to help fund our priorities. These include Didcot, West Oxfordshire along the A40 and north of Oxford; tackling the A34, and providing the infrastrcuture to support Bicester’s ambitious growth plans.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid said he was ‘impressed with the collaborative approach to the deal’ taken by Oxfordshire’s six councils. But the announcement of this funding, linked to delivering ambitious targets for new homes, is just the start. Government wants to see that we can continue to work together with strong local leadership. That is ministerial code for taking tough decisions that will not always be popular.
We quickly need to provide government with a credible plan for housing growth to get the cash. Longer term we need to work together to produce a spatial plan that recognises the importance of planning for jobs, homes and transport for Oxfordshire as a whole. For the first time, developing a spatial plan will force the different parts of Oxfordshire and the different interest groups within it to agree a vision for the future of the whole county that is in all our interests
We have many advantages of wealth and knowledge in Oxfordshire compared to other parts of Britain. But to some extent we are also playing catch up. Cambridgeshire has been better at using the planning system and government investment to capitalise on its science and technology assets. To use a boat race analogy, we are drawing level with both crews pulling hard.
Although that friendly local rivalry will continue, to compete with places much, much further east of Cambridgeshire, we will need to work together. The National Infrastructure (NIC) report on the economic potential of the ‘brain belt’ between Oxfordshire and Cambridge shows that our future prosperity lies as much in working together as competing against each other.
The announcement of the growth deal with Government is a small but important part of what Oxfordshire needs to be a vital part of that growth opportunity. We need to bring the ideas people and their backers to this corner of the globe and then, sure, we can try to get them to Oxfordshire. But amid the uncertainty about investment in UK plc, the most important thing is to get them here.
Last week Sajid Javid told the baby boomers that they had to get real about the need to solve the housing crisis, which is impacting on their children and grandchildren. I agree. But we cannot have growth at any costs, and I was reassured by the NIC’s recommendations about protecting the environment and quality of life.
I am nailing my colours firmly to the mast here – I am for growth that creates jobs, grows the economy and helps our children find a home to raise a family, and their children to do the same. But I also know there are many other important reasons that people want to live in Oxfordshire. The challenge we all face as politicians is ensuring we can have both.