Oxford Green Space – the missing 11,000 citizens

How Oxford City Council lost 11,000 Citizens – and Why It Matters

 Ever had the feeling you don’t exist?   Well according to the Council’s Core Strategy and Green Spaces Survey 11,000 of us don’t, and most of those live in the Headington district. 

This of course does not mean you don’t have to pay your Council taxes, bus fares or anything else, it does mean we will have less green space to share with more people as the last precious vestiges of green space are built on.

Much of this came about as the Council made a major, and entirely avoidable miscalculation, in its Green Spaces Survey it assumed the population of Oxford would grow in the 10 years between 2001 and 2011 by 2.8% – it has in fact grown by 11% – an extra 11,000 people, or a 400% miscalculation the actual growth rates.

Bad?  It gets worse – for many of the poorest, most green deprived parts of Oxford such as Barton, Cowley and Northway population growth was over 20% or seven times the Council’s average projection for Oxford of 2.8%, –  all target areas of future growth.

Bad? It gets worse, it committed to keep 5.75 H.A. of green space per 1000 of population (Policy C.S.21), so our city would comprise of healthy communities and not dormitories, and all citizens regardless of their estate, could enjoy green space and leisure, but there was one glitch – the Council publically committed to keeping something that had not existed since 2001, in March 2011, to 2026!

Bad? It gets worse – not only has it not fiercely protected the tiny patches of green still remaining to provide for these extra numbers, there are 1000s more to come planned in the Core Strategy – in Barton West (885 households) and other development sites in the city which will be approximately a further 11,000 persons (2111*5) – although some of these may already be built.

The amount of green space and the population increase are key figures –defining general policy formulation, site policies, playground equipment provision, and provision of community facilities, helping to strike the balance between the need for housing and green space, in particular in resisting new development on greenfield land where future needs must be accommodated – put bluntly, the Council’s error is our green space loss.

This figure of 2.8% population increase was presented as incorrect evidence for the formulation of the Core Strategy, Sites and Housing DPD, The planning enquiry and others, Oxford City Council has mislead (and I do not imply deliberately) its members, all decision making bodies including Planning Committees, the Inspector and citizens, leading to incorrect outcomes – land that should have been protected was allowed to be built over.

The need for social housing is great, but building housing where children can’t play out, where rich and poor are divided, where there is no space for community halls simply cannot be the future, where do we stop? What are we going to do 20 years from now?

We are losing as we write the ‘little old lady of Headington,’ precious Bury Knowle Stables which have stood proud and untouched for hundreds of years, the Bury Knowle Depot, formally part of unrestricted green space, and last week, in defiance of a planning policy (S.P.3) that mandated 25% of green space based on a 2.8% population increase, Barton Cricket Ground in Barton, the last and largest green space after Bury Knowle.

The figures below show population growth per ward between 2001 – 2011.

These are based on the following assumptions as understood from advice from the Office of National Statistics:

  • The “estimated years” row for Oxford as a whole are accurate and comparable – these compare very well with a sum of the ward statistics
  • The Ward boundaries may have changed which means a population change in one ward of say 30% may be 15%/15% with a neighbouring one, the net effect on the “urban village” is essentially the same – exactly comparable figures for 2011 are not yet available, therefore must be treated with more caution.

Ward Name

2001

2005

2011

%inc

5yr

%inc

10yr

Barton and Sandhills

5,904

6,504

7,145

110%

121%

Blackbird Leys

5,844

6,112

6,054

105%

104%

Carfax

4,824

5,081

6,264

105%

130%

Churchill

6,144

6,554

7,231

107%

118%

Cowley

5,502

5,988

6,510

109%

118%

Cowley Marsh

4,959

5,818

6,871

117%

139%

Headington

5,652

5,713

5,712

101%

101%

Headington Hill/Northway

4,941

5,179

6,172

105%

125%

Hinksey Park

5,880

6,291

5,884

107%

100%

Holywell

4,236

4,687

5,328

111%

126%

Iffley Fields

5,286

5,452

5,644

103%

107%

Jericho and Osney

5,961

6,405

6,721

107%

113%

Littlemore

5,631

6,082

6,394

108%

114%

Lye Valley

6,234

7,223

7,286

116%

117%

Marston

6,138

6,305

6,230

103%

101%

North Oxford

5,535

5,375

5,713

97%

103%

Northfield Brook

6,444

7,211

6,907

112%

107%

Quarry and Risinghurst

6,015

6,193

6,250

103%

104%

Rose Hill and Iffley

6,045

6,261

6,456

104%

107%

St Clement’s

5,817

5,848

5,857

101%

101%

St Margaret’s

4,668

5,513

5,400

118%

116%

St Mary’s

5,106

5,329

5,236

104%

103%

Summertown

7,086

7,218

7,130

102%

101%

Wolvercote

5,658

5,693

5,850

101%

103%

Oxford Population sum of above

135510

144035

150245

106%

111%

Estimated Year

135509

145383

150245

107%

111%

Pop. Additional Growth (extra)

0

8525

14735

   
Unrestricted HA (estimate after 2005)

771

771

771

   
Green Space Survey Pop forecast

134005

 

139299

   
Pop. Shortfall GS/Census  GS forecast

1505

 

10946

   
Actual HA per 1000 persons ( 5.75 HA target)

5.69

5.35

5.13

   
Actual HA Required for 5.75

779.18

828.20

863.91

   
Extra HA Required

8.42

57.44

93.15

   
Pop Percent inc estimate GS

2.80%

       
Actual Pop inc %

11.00%

       
Underestimateddifference

8.20%

       
Percent Incorrect

393%

       

Source – ONS see Sources section below

Looking over above, we are struck immediately by the huge differential increase in populations in the green poor, deprived suburbs such as Barton, Northway and Cowley compared to green rich northern suburbs – and how the Council’s plans will differentially impact – Barton, an extra 885 households, Northway new large developments and a town green cut in half, Cowley losing its swimming pool for even more housing – intensifying social division and differential pressure on green space.

This is not some minor administrative error but an extremely serious misrepresentation (and I do not imply this is deliberate) which strikes at the heart of the integrity of the above processes where relevant.

It beggars belief that the Council did not verify and update these figures, as it has taken me less than two hours to obtain and process the statistics with no training or expertise whatever which calls into question the Council’s base competency and performance of due diligence – even without the 2011 figures, the first 9 years data was available, in addition to other indicative sources.

The Council must now, upon verification of these calculations, as a matter of professional duty and integrity:

  • Update the Core Strategy and Site and Housing DPD to exclude sections that are misleading, formally withdraw Policy C.S.21.  It is not acceptable for public body to knowingly present misleading information, implying green space is plentiful when it is not.
  • Formally withdraw, consult and update each and every policy where green space is a significant factor
  • Apologise to the Inspector explaining that the keystone of the evidence presented in relation to green space was factually incorrect and request another enquiry for the relevant policies.
  • Identify as much land as possible to address the 90 H.A. shortfall, work with private landowners to grant access as of right to the public
  • Address the needs of suburbs that have experienced 20%+ population growth, or improve green space quality and facilities at district parks such as Bury Knowle Park that service them
  • Increase the green space provision at West Barton
  • Request the Planning Minister to not grant final planning permission for Barton Cricket Ground pending a review of above, at least to have the 25% the housing policy intended, or press for an alternative solution
  • Negotiate access to the Barton Triangle from Barton West with the Oxford Preservation Trust
  • Halt the sale of Bury Knowle Stables, pending repurposing to assist the green space usage for the socially and green space deprived dormitories the Council is creating in its surrounding area
  • Halt further development plans for Bury Knowle Depot, reserve the land as green space or for compatible community purposes

Perhaps the less fortunate of this city can reconcile themselves to living in green deprived, poverty concentrated dormitories on the edge of the city, far from the chocolate box centre of our fair city and the café strips of the Cowley Road – perhaps they can accept lower life chances for their children and living far from the vast expanses of green at Port Meadow, but can anybody really accept  that they:

Simply don’t count?

See my last article:

The Council’s Great Green Grab on menu above!

And for something completely different:

The Medieval Murals of St Andrew’s Headington on menu above!

Sources

Office of National Statistics

Years (Columns) – Not Fully Comparable due to possible Ward Boundary Changes

Mid-2001 Population Estimates for 2003 Statistical Wards in England and Wales by Quinary Age and Sex and Selected Ages

Mid-2005 Population Estimates for 2005 Statistical Wards in England and Wales by Quinary Age and Sex and Selected Ages (Revised)

Mid-2011 Population Estimates for 2011 Wards in England and Wales by Quinary Age and Sex; based on the results of the 2011 Census.

“Estimated Year” – Directly Comparable

Mid-2001 Population Estimates: Single year of age and sex for local authorities in England and Wales; estimated resident population.

Mid-2005 Population Estimates: Single year of age and sex for local authorities in England and Wales; estimated resident population.

Mid-2011 Population Estimates: Single year of age and sex for local authorities in England and Wales; estimated resident population.

Selected Policy Statements

 Green Spaces Survey 

Future Demand

Population projections suggest that the total population of Oxford is likely to increase by 2.8% in the period between 2001 and 2011. If the quantity of open space is not increased to take account of this increase in population, the quantity standard will be reduced resulting in a higher level of use of some existing sites which could result in further wear-and-tear and a corresponding reduction in quality.

 

The council should therefore seek wherever possible, to provide additional open space in order to maintain the standard, either by the creation of open space or change of access arrangements. Improving the quality of existing open space in order to increase the carrying capacity of sites must also be considered

 

*This was assuming 2.8% not 11%.

 

Core Strategy

 

Space The Green Space Study recommended that the city standard of

5.75ha per 1,000 population of publicly accessible green space be

maintained. This has land-use implications since additional public

open space would be needed for an increasing population23.

 

Identified development needs

1.3.4 The scarcity of land available to accommodate an increasing population and

the development of the economy is the key overarching spatial issue for

Oxford. This is highlighted by various elements of the evidence base

underpinning the Core Strategy.

 

1.3.5 In addition, many other land-use needs have to be accommodated to create

sustainable communities. These include additional school capacity,

community and cultural facilities, built leisure facilities, transport

infrastructure, and utilities infrastructure.

 

“As indicated in the spatial portrait, there are wide

social, economic and environmental disparities between different parts of

the city. Some areas of Oxford are among the most deprived in England;

others are among the least deprived. Deprivation is largely concentrated in

housing estates on the south eastern and north eastern periphery of the city,

although there are other pockets within the City centre and parts of east

Oxford. Improving health and social inclusion is a key priority of Oxford’s

Sustainable Community Strategy, while reducing inequalities and breaking

the cycle of deprivation is a strategic objective in the Oxfordshire Sustainable

Community Strategy.

 

P o l i c y C S 2

Previously developed and greenfield land

 

Development will only be permitted on greenfield land if:

 

• it is specifically allocated for that use in the Local Development

Framework, or

 

• for residential development, it is required to maintain a five-year

rolling housing-land supply, the approach for which is set out in

Policy CS22.

 

Other areas of open space will only be allocated for development if a

need for the development of that land can be demonstrated, and if the

open space is not required for the well-being of the community it

serves.

 

P o l i c y C S 2 1

Green spaces, leisure and sport

The City Council will seek to maintain an overall average of 5.75 ha of

publicly accessible green space per 1,000 population.

Planning permission will only be granted for development resulting in

the loss of existing sports and leisure facilities if alternative facilities

can be provided and if no deficiency is created in the area. Alternative

facilities should be provided in a location equally or more accessible by

walking, cycling and public transport and will be particularly welcomed

in areas that have an identified shortage.

Improvements to, or the provision of, public green space, public rights

of way, indoor and outdoor sports facilities and play facilities will be

sought in accordance with Policy CS17. Opportunities will be sought for

opening up access to new public spaces, for providing suitable new

green spaces on or near to development sites, and for providing public

access to private facilities.

 

 

 

 

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