ALL available land within Oxford will be developed by the end of 2020, the leader of the city council has warned.
Bob Price was speaking as council officers try to meet a new housing target of 28,000, which has come out of a recently released report.
Following this report – a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) – the council is looking into where extra houses might go so it can update its plans.
Mr Price said meeting this demand would be ‘impossible’ within the current city boundaries, adding that the council would only be able to build more homes by increasing the density of upcoming developments.
The city only has space for 9,000 of these homes, and they are all due to be completed by the end of the decade. Mr Price said: “We already have sites identified for 8,000 homes which includes places like Oxpens and the Northern Gateway. We will look at those and see if there is capacity there in terms of numbers and density.
“We did a pretty comprehensive review at the time we did the Sites and Housing Development Plan document. It is unlikely that there will be additional sites. We have not created any new land since then unfortunately, so it will be difficult to see where new sites will come from.
“We don’t know at this stage how many homes we will be able to fit in, but it could be a range anywhere between nil and 1,000.
“The problem is that the density issue is not one you can push too far, because then you end up with unacceptable developments.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said he gets a lot of correspondence from constituents who are struggling to find a home.
He said: “We have to build more houses and there is a limit to the land that’s available within the existing built-up area of the city and we don’t want to encroach into the areas of high-amenity value that give Oxford its distinctive beautiful setting.
“We need to look at sites on the edge of the city and that means looking at parts of the Green Belt.”
The city council has been in discussions with surrounding district councils about taking some of the remaining 19,000 homes that the strategic housing market assessment says Oxford needs by 2031. But Oxford has very tightly drawn council boundaries, within which most of the land is developed already – with the exception of parks and flood plains.
Oxford City Council is keen on developing the land south of Grenoble Road, which it owns with Magdalen College, where it says it could fit 4,000 homes. But the land is in South Oxfordshire District Council’s authority.
Mr Price said there had been “no movement” on those discussions and added that most of the sites within Oxford would probably be developed by 2020.
He said: “We are expecting most of the sites in the city to be developed by the end of the decade.’’ Mr Price said that all land in Oxford available for development has already been earmarked in its core strategy, which runs until 2026.
But Helen Marshall, the director of the Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, rejected Mr Price’s claims.
She said: ”Obviously there is pressure in Oxford and there are not that many sites but there is still the Northern Gateway that they are trying to bring forward for employment use when there isn’t a desperate need for those sites.
“In our view this comes back to the housing figures which are proposed that are completely ridiculous, over the top and based on very flawed judgement.”