THE view driving into Oxford from the north hasn’t really changed a great deal in years.
For most people it consists of a close-up of the rear of the car in front and some vague glimpses of fields over the nearby hedgerow.
But this is all set to change very soon as Oxford City Council brings forward its plans to redevelop the so-called Northern Gateway.
It will mean the land between the A34 and Wolvercote will soon be home to a business and science park which could house companies carrying out ground-breaking research.
But the plans are controversial because the area is already congested and there are concerns the additional development could make matters worse.
Colin Cook, the council’s executive board member for city development, said the development would boost Oxford’s economy.
He said: “It will help secure a strong local economy and valuable additional housing. It will also improve transport.
“The existing road network in the area does not lend itself to a good residential environment, given the noise and the traffic which is generated.
“We will clearly have to work with Oxfordshire County Council in order to address the issues of the road network as much as possible and improve the current situation.”
The city council has already set out how it intends to tackle the issue of traffic in the area.
Its options document, which has just gone out for public consultation, includes plans to expand the Pear Tree park-and-ride into a multi-storey car park, build two new link roads between the A40 and A44, create a bus interchange and improve both Wolvercote and Cutteslowe roundabouts.
But within Wolvercote there are concerns that all this will clog up the area and increase pollution.
John Bleach, chairman of the Wolvercote Neighbourhood Forum, said: “I think the development is flawed by the road system and I don’t think enough is being done in order to improve that system.
“The road system is absolutely crucial and at the moment all eyes are on trying to make the passage for motorcars and vehicles better through the area – but with not enough regard to non-car modes of transport.
“I am not a road engineer and I don’t know all the answers but one would hope that there is potential there.”
An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said: “The county council has received City Deal funding to help deliver transport schemes at Cutteslowe and Wolvercote Roundabouts and for a new link road west of the A34 connecting the A40 and the A44.
“The county council, working closely in partnership with the city council, is committed to delivering these schemes irrespective of whether or when the Northern Gateway development takes place.”
Wolvercote residents oppose the Northern Gateway plans in 2009
Area action plan a blueprint for future of the area
An area action plan – or AAP – is an official document which sets out how a large area of land can be developed.
It is the process that was used by the city council in 2012 to set out its plans for Barton West – the new development of around 900 homes in north east Oxford.
The point of putting together an AAP is effectively to dictate what can be built there, but it can set this out in much more detail than other, more wide-ranging, policies. For example the Barton Area Action Plan set out how the homes should be designed and how the new estate should be linked to the rest of Oxford.
To become reality, an AAP will have to be approved by a Government inspector at a public inquiry.
Once approved, all plans for any development inside the AAP boundary will be judged against the document.
Oxford City Council’s head of city development Michael Crofton-Briggs at a Northern Gateway workshop in 2011
2007: Plans to create a “northern gateway” to Oxford – including a new police and fire service headquarters – are first put forward.
2009: The scheme goes before a planning inspector as part of Oxford City Council’s core strategy.
April 2010: The city council scales back its proposals to maintain the jobs-to-homes balance in Oxford after accepting the 4,000 home development south of Grenoble Road might not happen.
December 2010: The Northern Gateway is approved by the planning inspector.
2011: Councillors formally approve the scheme and a High Court bid to have it thrown out is rejected.
2013: The city council begins drawing up the Northern Gateway Area Action Plan which will provide more detail about how the site can be developed.
The site itself is a roughly triangular piece of land 44 hectares – the equivalent of nearly 60 football pitches – in size between the A34 and Wolvercote
It must be used for jobs-led development with up to 80,000 sq m of employment floorspace
Up to 500 homes could also be built
A small number of shops, a new hotel and an expansion of the Pear Tree park-and-ride could also be included
Improvements to the transport infrastructure in the area must be included in the proposals but details on what this will consist of have not been agreed yet.
What is due to happen next?
A consultation is currently being held into the options for the site the city council is considering. This ends on Friday, March 28.
The responses will be considered and fed into a draft AAP, along with other studies.
During the summer, the draft AAP will be made available for public consultation in July or August.
After this amendments will be made and it will be submitted to the Secretary of State for consideration.
In January 2015, a public inquiry into the document will be held, chaired by an independent government inspector.
A final decision by the inspector is expected to be made by May 2015 when the AAP will be formally adopted by the city council.