Strategic Needs


The five core themes of Environment, Health, Place-Shaping, Productivity and Connectivity have been used as a framework to refine 25 outcome-led sub-themes. These sub-themes represent Oxfordshire’s future needs for infrastructure investment to 2040 and underpin the needs-based appraisal component of the infrastructure scheme multi-criteria appraisal. This work followed a strong evidence gathering process, including engagement with a variety of stakeholders, a review of key policies and strategies and a detailed study of what towns, villages, public land and amenities there are in our local area.

Needs to 2050 will be covered in the forthcoming OxIS Stage 2 Report.

Environment Needs to 2040:

The Environment theme responds to the climate emergency declared by OCC and the five District Councils, as well as the net zero carbon targets identified in the various Action Frameworks and by the Oxfordshire Growth Board.

Through building the capacity to recover from the long-term effects of climate change, it also considers wider needs such as the restoring of the variety of plants and animals and the natural environment alongside defending against flooding and waste disposal to support the creation of sustainable communities.

Explore our strategic needs for the environment below:

There is a strategic need to fulfil national legal obligations and the County-wide Climate Action Framework to achieve net zero carbon emissions in Oxfordshire by 2050, and the more recent Oxfordshire Growth Board target identified within Oxfordshire’s Strategic Vision for net zero by 2040. There is also a need to achieve the carbon neutral target years, ranging from 2030 to 2050, identified in the five Oxfordshire District Council climate action strategies. The carbon emission inventory indicates a need to reduce emissions particularly reducing road transport tailpipe emissions(46% of total emission) and Oxfordshire’s energy network emissions to 2040. This includes urgently reducing carbon emissions within Cherwell and South Oxfordshire to enable their ambitions toachieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030. Primarily due to the presence of the M40, emissions originating in theseDistricts comprise the largest proportion (30% and 20% respectively) of total County emissions.

The Met Office forecasts that the impacts of climate change will result in an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events including heavy periods of rainfall in winter and prolonged warmer and drier periods in summer by2040. A series of national strategies, including the Climate Change Risk Assessment and the Environment Agency’sNational Framework for Water Resources identify this as a strategic need to plan resilient infrastructure which can cope with these additional pressures. This includes ensuring infrastructure can reduce flooding risk to communities and ensuring that the public water supply is not disrupted by issuing of more frequent drought orders.

From various Strategic Flood Risk Assessments and Water Cycle Studies produced by Oxfordshire’s Local Authorities, the greatest need to improve resilience to flooding events is within Oxford, where around 16.5% of properties are situated within Flood Zone 2 or 3. Both the Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire also have a higher fluvial flooding risk than the rest of the county due to the presence of the River Thames.

The UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (2018) identifies the strategic need to ‘leave our environment in abetter state that we found it and to pass on to the next generation a natural environment protected and enhanced for the future’. By 2042, this aspires to create a Nature Recovery Network across England rich in wildlife and biodiversity through the creation or restoration of 500,000 additional hectares of additional wildlife-rich habitat outside of protected sites. This has set the tone for the emerging Environment Bill (2020) which proposes to set a mandatory requirement for biodiversity net gain and to embed connected Nature Recovery Networks into the planning system.

Oxfordshire’s nature recovery network has recently been developed by the Institute of Environmental Change at the University of Oxford in partnership with the Local Authorities. This establishes three recovery zones, with the overarching aim to fulfil Oxfordshire’s environmental organisations’ strategic ambition to achieve a 20% net gain in biodiversity.

With regards to waste disposal and collection, the primary legal obligation on Oxfordshire is to ensure efficiency. This is supported by fulfilling the strategic need to reduce household waste generation and increase the proportion which is recycled. The national policy described in the Our Waste, Our Resources Strategy (HM Government, 2018) sets targets aligned to these needs. In the short term, achieving the targets of the Oxfordshire Resources and WasteStrategy until its termination in 2023 will position Oxfordshire well for the longer-term goals.

Although despite population growth, total household waste has reduced (attributed to the country-leading track record for recycling), substantial population growth needs to be addressed (e.g. increase Waste Transfer Station capacity inCherwell, review Household Waste Recycling Centre provision and role out more household reduction schemes)

Water: The UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (2018) identifies the key national strategic need for ‘clean and plentiful’ water by 2042. This includes exceeding water quality objectives identified in the ThamesRiver Basin Management Plan (DEFRA, 2015). This strategic need is also reflected in the Water Cycle Studies and Local Plans produced by Oxfordshire’s Local Authorities. As identified in the Thames Water PollutionIncident Reduction Plan (2020), a key need is to reduce sewage outfall incidents in Oxfordshire by 30% by 2025. There is also a need to improve water quality and to reduce water pollution incidents.

Noise: The strategic need, identified in the Noise Policy Statement for England(DEFRA,2010)andNPPF(MHCLG,2019)focuses on limiting the impact of additional noise generated through new development sites and improving people’s health and quality of life. The strategic need to reduce and manage noise levels through the local planning process inOxfordshire is established in the Adopted Oxfordshire Minerals & Waste Core Strategy (OCC, 2011) and reflected in theDistricts’ Local Plans. There is a need to reduce noise in Oxford City given it has been designated by DEFRA as a noise agglomeration whist there is also a need to reduce environmental noise levels on key transport corridors.

Health Needs to 2040:

The Health theme is associated with reducing Oxfordshire’s health inequalities and supporting people to lead more active and healthier lifestyles.

Explore our long term needs for health below:

Alongside a legal obligation, the strategic need to reduce health inequalities within Oxfordshire is set out within OCC’s Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2018 – 2023. This identifies a future need to shift the focus towards a more preventative approach to physical and mental health by addressing issues such as inequalities in opportunity or outcomes alongside inequalities in relation to health service access. This strategic need is also reflected within Oxfordshire’s Strategic Vision, Local Plans as well as the five District Council’s Corporate Plans.

There is a need to address inequalities within specific urban areas, where healthy life expectancy can be less than 60years of age. Many of these same places also rank in the 10% of the most health-deprived areas in the UK according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation. Most of the health-deprived places with Oxfordshire lie adjacent to areas identified for future growth which provides a future opportunity for infrastructure investment to address.

The strategic need to improve physical activity levels is identified in a suite of national policy documents; all of which identify physical inactivity as detrimental to people’s physical and mental health outcomes. In an Oxfordshire context, the strategic need for improved access to spaces for physical activity is reflected within the Local Transport Plan (LTP4)(OCC, 2015) and the Joint Health & Wellbeing Strategy (Oxfordshire Health & Wellbeing Board, 2019).

The need to increase walking and cycling as part of promoting everyday physical activity features as a cornerstone of these strategies. Evidence collected by Sport England’s Active Lives Survey (Sport England, 2020) identifies a need to increase physical activity levels within Oxfordshire’s urban areas, particularly in more deprived communities. This includes building physical activity into people’s everyday routines (such as walking and cycling), particularly within more rural communities.

The NHS Long Term Plan (2019) and the Health Infrastructure Plan (2019) identify the long-term strategic need for an integrated approach to the NHS service model across primary, community and social care to prioritise ‘out of hospital care’.

The Joint Health & Wellbeing Strategy (Oxfordshire Health & Wellbeing Board, 2019) identifies the strategic need to tackle inequalities of accessing healthcare services given the underlying challenge that some people in Oxfordshire face of being unable to get to or use services. The Oxfordshire Primary Care Estates Strategy (OCCG, 2021) identifies a need to ensure resilient and accessible primary care services which reduce current pressure and can meet future demand.

Alongside the Care Act (2014), the Market Position Statement (OCC, 2019) identifies a need to meet future demand from Oxfordshire’s ageing population through additional supply in extra care housing and care homes. Housing-based population projections also indicate there may be an additional 42,000 people aged 75 and over living in Oxfordshire by2040. This triggers a need for around 1,700 additional extra care housing units and almost 3,000 care home beds.There is a need to enhance the local accessibility of GP surgeries where the average journey time by active travel ranges between 15 and 20 minutes (e.g. Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire) and to enhance capacity at GPs throughout Oxfordshire, with a requirement for approximately 175 additional FTE GPs by 2040.

The strategic need for cleaner air in Oxfordshire relates to a national legal obligation which identifies legal limits for air quality. These limits relate to Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM), comprising of both PM10 and PM2.5, which are the most harmful pollutants to people’s health. The Clean Air Strategy 2019(DEFRA, 2019) identifies the strategic need at a national level to fulfil these legal NO2 obligations rapidly, through achieving a 73% reduction in NOx emissions and a 46% reduction in PM2.5 by 2030.

There is a strategic need to revoke Oxfordshire’s 13 Air Quality Management Areas as soon as possible by ensuring that NO2 emissions, primarily caused by road transport, are reduced below legal limits.

The most pressing need for cleaner air is within Oxford City alongside key OxIS Towns & Surrounds with at leastone designated AQMA and wider rural communities with annual NO2 limits above legal limits.

The 2011 Mental Health Strategy alongside Public Health England’s Prevention Concordat for Better MentalHealth (PHE, 2020) identifies the strategic need to improve people’s mental health at a national level. This emphasises the need to take a prevention-focused approach, impacting on the wider determinants of mentalhealth and well-being, and increasing the impact on reducing health inequalities.

The Oxfordshire Strategic Vision (Oxfordshire Growth Board, 2021) identifies the need for happier, healthier and inclusive communities with a focus on prevention and healthy place-making for all. This is underpinned by a range of strategies including the Oxfordshire Mental Health Prevention Framework 2020 – 2023 (Mental Health Prevention Concordat Partnership Group, 2020) which identifies a need to address wider social determinants of mental health and the differences in opportunities for people.

The evidence indicates that there is a need to reduce levels of depression across Oxfordshire, with data identifying that around 12% of people over 18 have been diagnosed with depression in 2019/2020, which is marginally higher than the national average. Prevalence rates are also higher for GP surgeries in some OxIS Towns & Surrounds alongside the rural communities of Kidlington and Berinsfield.

Place Shaping Needs to 2040:

The Place-Shaping theme is associated with the creation of sustainable and resilient communities which provide a high-quality environment, reflecting the urban and rural dynamics of Oxfordshire.

Explore our strategic needs for the place shaping below:

The need to create local and liveable communities is set out in both local and national planning policy to ensure communities are safe and healthy. The need for easy access to social, recreational and cultural facilities is also highlighted and encouraging reduced travel or a shift to travel by sustainable transport through providing key services and facilities within local reach of residents.

In Oxfordshire, large rural parts of the county, particularly across Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire are defined by Indices of Multiple Deprivation as being in the top 10% deprived Lower-layer Super Output Areas associated with barriers to housing and services.  new development coming forward, careful planning and place-shaping is required to adhere to policy by creating liveable, local communities with access to local amenities and sustainable transport.

Although the perception of crime given the context nationally is diminished, crime has been rising in Oxfordshire and with population growth predicted, measures need to be put in place now to minimise the risk to people’s safety.Measures set out by Safer Oxfordshire Partnership, highlights the importance for infrastructure and the heathy place-shaping of communities to prevent crime. Theft and violence represent 80% of crimes in Oxfordshire and urban areas have proportionally higher levels of crime than the county’s rural areas. This is further supported byIndices of Multiple Deprivation data, showing that Oxfordshire is home to a number of top 10% deprived areas ( of Oxford, Banbury and Bicester) in England and Wales associated with crime, identifying a stronger need.Analysis of road safety, identifies a need to address the number of road collision casualties county-wide inOxfordshire, particularly around urban areas with evidence suggesting walking and cycling issues are present.

Heritage: As identified in the Historic England Corporate Plan (Historic England,2020),Oxfordshire’s Strategic Vision (OCC,2020), NPPF (MHCLG, 2019) and the Oxfordshire Districts’ Local Plans, there is a strategic need to protect and conserve the county’s rich and varied heritage assets both from future development as well as the threats of climate change. Evidence from the Heritage at Risk Register (Historic England, 2020) indicates that there are 30 heritage sites in Oxfordshire at risk.

Culture: The Arts Council Ten 2020 – 2030 Strategy (Arts Council England, 2020) identifies the strategic need from a national perspective to improve community access to high-quality cultural experiences. This is complemented locally by Oxfordshire’s Strategic Vision (OCC, 2020) and Arts & Culture Strategic Framework (OxLEP,2019) which identify a strategic need for enhanced and more inclusive arts and cultural spaces across Oxfordshire.The emerging Strategic Framework for OCC Libraries & Heritage Services (OCC, 2021) emphasises the need for such services to address increased demand from population growth, while Active Lives Survey (Arts Council England, 2018)and the Taking Part Survey (DCMS, 2020) indicate a need to improve use of public library services in specific parts ofOxfordshire. Data at a national level also suggests there may be a need to enhance cultural participation rates amongst lower socio-economic groups, those with disabilities and amongst the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community.

The need to maintain social interaction between people in communities helps fight loneliness and provides support networks, especially for people at vulnerable points. This is reflected in national Government policy which focuses on healthy place-shaping and connecting people through well thought out transport and decent digital connectivity. With the population expanding new developments planned and designed, it is even more important that considerations are made to improve social cohesion through preventative measures.

Loneliness is a well-established health risk, particularly for older people, and is associated with poor health and well-being. In Oxfordshire, pockets throughout the county (e.g. Didcot Park, parts of Oxford City and around Banbury) demonstrate high risks of loneliness for its residents. Loneliness has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and there is an immediate need to address this, particularly in Vale of White Horse, Cherwell and Oxford City, where rates are highest. There is a need to also consider green space, as this is proven to encourage social interaction and bringing people together. 

National policy ambitions demonstrate the strong need to reduce private vehicle journeys and replace these with walking and cycling journeys, to support several initiatives including reducing carbon emissions, tackling congestion and enhancing people’s mental health and wellbeing. This is followed up by local policy at both a County and District level as, although active modal share in Oxfordshire, notably in Oxford, is good compared to the national picture, national and local targets are ambitious and require a step-change in behaviour.

There is good potential for further cycling take-up in Oxford, Abingdon, Carterton, Bicester and Wallingford with delivery of the right infrastructure and incentive. The needs link to previous sections as active travel relies on local & liveable and safe & secure communities to encourage and support walking and cycling journeys.

Productivity Needs to 2040:

The Productivity theme is associated with supporting increased economic productivity within Oxfordshire, considering the needs of both citizens and business.

Explore our strategic needs for productivity below:

There is a statutory future need for Local Authorities, like OCC, to ensure every school-age child and young person can access suitable education, as well as sufficient early-years education and childcare provision for all children of four years and under. Oxfordshire’s Pupil Place Plan 2019 – 2023 (OCC, 2019), which assesses the suitability of provision to meet future demand, identifies a strategic need for OCC to continue to offer a high percentage of parents a place at their first choice school. Future population projections indicate there is likely to be around an additional 12,000 primary school places and 10,500 secondary school places required by 2040. The Special Educational Needs & Disabilities Sufficiency of Places Strategy (Oxford City Council, 2018), identifies a strategic need to address the deficit of OCC school places and to reduce the reliance on ‘out of county’ provision and reliance on Independent providers. Future population projections indicate there may be a need for additional capacity for around 450 children with Special Educational Needs & Disabilities by 2040. 

Build Back Better (HM Treasury, 2021) alongside the White Paper ‘Skills for Jobs’ identifies a strategic need to upskill people to ensure employers’ needs are met in the future and to guarantee a strong COVID-19 recovery. Oxfordshire’s strategy, including the emerging OxLEP Local Skills Report and Plan (2021) as well as Oxfordshire’s Economic Recovery Plan (OxLEP, 2021), identifies a productivity need to ensure provision of post-16 training and education. 

Although most metrics indicate Oxfordshire has a high-performing economy, it is not delivering for everybody – as evidenced by a geographic disparity in Indices of Multiple Deprivation. The pockets of high deprivation occur in every district, but the most pressing need is in Oxford City, Abingdon-on-Thames, Banbury and Bicester. There is need for highly targeted interventions so as to maximise impact for these communities. Forecasts of future inequality are difficult to make because the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted pre-existing economic trends. Prior to the pandemic, housing affordability problems within the county were a key indicator of socio- economic inequality. However, in the short-term, the pandemic has only exacerbated this and also driven up youth unemployment – reducing this is another key need. 

The aim to reduce socio-economic inequality is included in policies at both the County and District level within Oxfordshire, and is considered across multiple themes (e.g. climate action and industrial strategy). This interconnectedness to other aims, and across branches of government, gives rise to the need for a coordinated approach in order to maximise effectiveness. It should be noted that whilst the national Levelling Up Fund (HM Treasury, 2021) is currently available for regenerative infrastructure projects, all District Councils within Oxfordshire have been given the lowest priority to receive funds. 

The Oxfordshire Local Industrial Strategy (OxLEP, 2019) has identified the scarcity of affordable housing as a key barrier to attracting and retaining talent. This is to the detriment of productivity targets and contributes to socio-economic inequalities within the county. As such, there is a pressing need to provide a greater quantity of affordable housing.

Based on a review of evidence, the price of houses relative to earnings is greater in all districts of Oxfordshire than the English average – indicating poor housing affordability. The need is greatest in Oxford City which is the least affordable UK city for housing. This need in part, can be delivered by the 100,000 new homes planned within the Oxfordshire Housing & Growth Deal by 2031 (Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, 2017). 

Oxfordshire’s Local Industrial Strategy (OxLEP, 2019) plans to build upon the world-leading science and technology clusters within the county and position it as one of the top three global innovation ecosystems by 2040. There is a strong business case for the 2040 target, with forecasts estimating the return as an additional £23bn in Gross Value Added to the economy and 108,000 new jobs.

Critical to success will be ensuring that Oxfordshire provides citizens with a sustainable and affordable high quality of life. This will support the attraction and retention of the necessary world-class talent, and the skills development of existing citizens in order to fulfil the business needs. There is also a need to nurture key industries by providing the infrastructure they need to thrive, including transportation, business accommodation, and support services. 

Economic growth and greater productive employment can raise the living standards of Oxfordshire’s citizens, and is intertwined with many of the other themes within OxIS. For greatest overall success, there is a need for economic growth to support and be supported by other strategic goals. For example, the need to reduce socio-economic inequality or move towards a ‘green economy’. Fortunately, this is recognised in national policy and Oxfordshire’s Local Industrial Strategy (OxLEP, 2019) - which plans develop the county’s economy as a knowledge-based innovation ecosystem by 2040.

Some forecasts predict that Oxfordshire’s economy might increase £20bn by 2040, despite the COVID-19 pandemic (Cambridge Econometrics, 2021). However, to realise the potential, it will be critical for County and District Council investments to target promoting greater productive employment.

Connectivity Needs to 2040:

The Connectivity theme is associated with ensuring that communities, particularly locations identified for growth, across Oxfordshire are connected both digitally as well as with wider utilities including clean and secure energy and water supply. It also involves improving transport connectivity and mobility between places, including seamless interchange across sustainable modes.

Explore our strategic needs for connectivity below:

There is national focus on full-fibre connectivity and 5G mobile data and policy sets out the need to provide full coverage of full-fibre by 2033 to support economic growth, social connectivity and rural communities, alongside providing 4G to 95% of the country. These ambitions are mirrored in the Oxfordshire Digital Infrastructure Strategy (OCC, 2020), aligning with the need to facilitate productive economic growth and employment as well as supporting the delivery of more efficient cultural and health and social care and services and playing its part in replacing road journeys. 

Oxfordshire currently only has 16.5% of its county covered by full-fibre broadband, behind proportional figures for the region and the nation (thinkbroadband, 2021). Alongside addressing these existing coverage gaps, particularly in Oxford City, there is a further need to increase the roll-out of full fibre to keep pace with the increased future growth over this period to 2033 of approximately 74,000 homes. There is a particular need to address coverage gaps in Bicester, Wantage & Grove, Grenoble Road, Northfield & South Oxford Fringes, Abingdon-on-Thames, Berinsfield and Upper Heyford 

The Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution sets the ambition for the UK’s net zero carbon target for 2050 by minimising energy demand and moving away from fossil fuels, with key sectors in need of decarbonising being transport, domestic and non-domestic buildings and industry. This is followed by local strategies including Oxford City’s, setting out their intention to become a top innovation ecosystem. Energy consumption analysis by District shows relatively consistent levels as well as consistent fuel type proportions over the past 10 years, with bioenergy and wastes only partially replacing other traditional fuel sources.

Oxfordshire’s reliance on petroleum products and gas must reduce at a fast rate in order to meet national 2030 targets and clean energy goals. This need is exacerbated by the population growth expected in the county. Electricity consumption has, however, shown a reduction between 2008 and 2019 in all Districts showing efficiency gains. However, alongside population growth, other factors will result in a need to address electricity consumption (e.g. transition to electric vehicles and decarbonisation of heat). Targets for electric vehicle use raise specific concerns over the requirements for large scale investment in the electrical grid and network infrastructure. 

Along with the unpredictability of water supply due to climate change and more extreme weather, Oxfordshire’s growing population and environment concerns around the pressure being placed on rivers and groundwater, there is an ever- increasing need to predict and manage the demand and supply of water to support growth in the region. This is why, Thames Water has predicted a supply demand deficit by 2045. This need can be addressed through delivery of targeted infrastructure to support water efficiency, smart meters, reusing treated wastewater and carrying out water transfers. 

It is expected that population growth will impact the efficiency of wastewater infrastructure and areas of high growth (e.g. Banbury, Bicester and Oxford) require wastewater treatment plant sites to be upgraded. 

The Government’s priorities for transport are underpinned by the need to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, reflected in a myriad of recent national and county strategies. They are directly relevant to Oxfordshire and these needs are met in county- and district-wide policy, identifying measures such as space reallocation, better, integrated, high-quality public transport and managing demand. With the rise of electric vehicles in the future, although this will tackle carbon emissions from transport, it will not tackle the county’s congestion or emissions from generation.

For most residents of Oxfordshire, the car is the first choice; the county has high private car mode share and car ownership and mileage across the county is increasing year on year. Many rural residents rely on access to urban areas, but most journeys are quicker by car than public transport. With Oxfordshire’s predicted substantial growth in both housing and employment, transport connectivity plays a vital role. For these needs to be met, whilst contributing to decarbonisation efforts, sustainable transport has a significant role to play. To deliver the need of improved sustainable transport connectivity across Oxfordshire requires a significant enhancement in public transport service reliability and connectivity between OxIS Towns & Surrounds. 

England’s Economic Heartland’s Transport Strategy identifies the ambition for people and businesses to be connected through the region and with international gateways, to support local economic growth, harness the globally renowned centres of innovation and improve the quality of life of its residents. Together with LTP4 (OCC, 2015), they identify the need to improve Oxfordshire’s public transport access with key destinations (e.g. London), transport interchanges (e.g. Heathrow) and key settlements (e.g. Birmingham and Reading).

Currently many public transport journeys suffer from long travel times, delays from traffic congestion and multiple connections, further contributing to the use of private car for strategic journeys. There is a specific need to improve rail and road freight travel; demand is forecast to grow and Oxfordshire is key as it hosts a number of significant freight routes such as from the Port of Southampton to the Midlands. 


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