We have submitted our response which you can download in full here.
In brief, we highlighted the following:
- By ignoring the rail option and only supporting the road option the AAP is undermining OCC Connecting Oxford strategy to connect Witney with a railway. It is not sound for an AAP to undermine a strategic policy in a way which could put a cap on further housing and other developments along this corridor.
- The AAP is unsound in so far as it declares that this will be a “zero-carbon” development. No car-based development could be carbon-free in the foreseeable future as road vehicles will still be using fossil fuels long after 2040 – the year that fossil-fuel vehicle sales should end (or 2030 if a more ambitious target is set). To help meet its own carbon-free commitment and national carbon reduction policy obligations the AAP should, as a minimum, hold open the option of considering rail-based alternatives because zero-carbon rail transport is currently the only way to ensure the AAP is deliverable.
- Oxfordshire and West Oxfordshire DC policy and AAP have been superseded by HM Government’s policy and announcement on Reversing Beeching and re-opening railways. It is therefore unsound to proceed with only inadequate transport proposals when there are external funds available to explore and develop sustainable transport options.
- The AAP misleadingly states that Hanborough Station is 1.8 miles from the AAP area. when for many of the new residents a journey of over 3 miles would be required which is unrealistic for walking to commute to the station, is a long cycle for many people and, by virtue of both distance and the very characteristic of Lower Road, is far more likely to be driven. This contradicts the stated garden village principles (s. 2, 4, 8 Garden Village Principles). Having to drive across the countryside to another town to access sustainable transport is not a basis for an exemplar green village. We fully support the proposals for improving the rail offer and connections to Hanborough, but it is only part of the provision needed.
- The reliance on bus services which currently do not exist is unsound as there is no evidence that a garden village of only 2200 new homes (5,459 est. population) could support the proposed 20-minute frequency bus service, particularly as the strategic focus is on bus improvements on the A40 corridor which is in the opposite direction from Hanborough. Priority is given to walking and cycling for local journeys. Unless the s.106 requirement includes a subsidy in perpetuity there is no way to ensure that bus services continue to operate (other than a long-term subsidy from Oxfordshire County Council which has not been secured). There is no sound sustainable transport policy proposed for journeys beyond the Garden Village. So the AAP is internally inconsistent and unsound on that basis.
- Since the policy context for the AAP was developed, Oxford has become a greater priority for rail investment with East-West Rail now under construction beyond Bicester to Bedford (enabling London-avoiding orbital journeys by rail) and cross-Oxford routes, including the reopening of the freight-only Cowley branch to passenger services, are being prioritized with the so-called ‘Metro-isation’ of routes across Oxford now a potential reality (submitted by Network Rail to HM Government as part of “Project Speed” in August 2020).
Our representation is not intended to propose any particular solution – we simply seek to have wording amended to reinstate rail as a consideration for the A40 corridor in accordance with OCC’s rail strategy.
We propose a single modification to the wording of Policy 15 A40 corridor improvements:
“Additionally or alternatively to contribute to further development of a rail-based option for the corridor through s106 or otherwise”.
The proper, sound planning of the area requires this wording amendment so that the option is not prematurely foreclosed without proper investigation.