The Oxfordshire Growth Board wants to develop a Strategic Vision for Oxfordshire that sets out our ambition for the county and puts us on the right path for long-term change so that we can secure the best possible future for Oxfordshire's residents. Our focus is on improving the well-being of individuals, communities, the economy and the natural and built environments.
The Vision will be used to help create an agreed set of long-term, strategic economic, infrastructure and environmental priorities designed to deliver the outcomes that local people want. This will help us create the kind of places that people want and ensure we are investing in the right way.
The Growth Board will ask, and work with, those preparing relevant strategic-level plans and programmes - such as the Oxfordshire Plan 2050 and the Oxfordshire Industrial Strategy - to consider how their work will deliver against this Strategic Vision. This collective approach will better position Oxfordshire to influence the priorities of other relevant organisations.
We want you to be part of the conversation as we begin to build consensus around a common set of goals for Oxfordshire, strengthening and improving the Vision.
Oxfordshire has considerable and diverse strengths. Its beautiful countryside, from the Chilterns to the Cotswolds, with high quality landscapes and areas important for nature conservation, its rich and diverse built and historic environment formed from the fabric of its market towns and villages and the vibrant, diverse cultural offer and urban environment in the City of Oxford, and its proximity and connections with other places, are key reasons why people choose to live, work, visit and invest here.
These strengths have formed the foundation of Oxfordshire's economic success. But there are also challenges. Oxfordshire is one of the fastest growing economies in the country, but it is also among the least equal, with significant and stubborn economic and social inequalities. And there are concerns over congestion, housing affordability and the well-being of the natural and built environments.
All these impact on Oxfordshire's residents and businesses.To create an ambition-led Vision, we need to understand what we want to achieve or change and what strategic challenges will need to be addressed.
As such, we have identified six key strategic challenges facing Oxfordshire:
We know none of these exist in isolation but instead are all interlinked.
When we have asked via engagement exercises how we should approach planning for the future, you said we should:
Some of the changes we have been forced to make during the Covid-19 pandemic have given us a glimpse of a world less dependent on personal travel and making more use of digital connectivity that may hint at a different kind of future. We have also seen communities come together to give care and support, and how much people have valued their green spaces. These may offer some potential solutions to some of the challenges set out.
But we will also have to rethink how we normally do things, find new ways that help achieve our wider aims and be more resilient in the future.
Our Strategic Vision for Oxfordshire aims to be a unique, ambitious and innovative approach to securing a better future for all.
You can read more about the context for the draft Vision here.
Enhanced well-being sits at the heart of our ambition. We want Oxfordshire to thrive so that the lives of current and future generations are improved. To achieve this will require bold, innovative, collaborative and inclusive thinking with decisions and actions that deliver real and lasting change in ways that build resilience and enhance well-being.
To be well, we need the right environmental, social and economic conditions, underpinned by improved resilience, and built on a clear understanding that the different dimensions of well-being are intrinsically linked.
By resilience we mean decarbonisation, tackling climate change and mitigating its impacts, securing a biodiverse natural environment, building community connectedness, better health, and improved educational attainment and skills that will support the jobs of the future.
Our ambition is to utilise the unique opportunities and assets in Oxfordshire to accommodate growth sustainably, and shape healthy, resilient communities in which it is possible for all residents to thrive.
If we are successful, these are the outcomes that will have been achieved in Oxfordshire by 2050:
We will be the first generation to leave our natural environment in a better state than that in which we found it. Our natural environment will be more biodiverse, supporting social, economic and ecological resilience and the capacity to adapt to change.
Our county will already be carbon neutral, and will be moving towards a carbon negative future, in which more carbon is removed than we emit each year.
We will all be healthier and happier, inequalities will have been reduced, our young people will feel excited about their future and our overall well-being will have improved.
Our economy will be successful and sustainable, making the most of all our talents and with quality places where people want to live and work.
We will have energy efficient, well-designed homes, sufficient in numbers, location, type, size, tenure and affordability to meet the needs of our residents.
The way we move around our county will be transformed, with greater connectivity and mobility in and between places in ways that enhance environmental, social and economic well-being.
Our communities will be rooted and flourishing, with enhanced and lasting connectedness driven by individual and community action.
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Our definition of 'good growth' forms the basis for a set of Guiding Principles – ground rules that will form the foundation for developing our plans, strategies and programmes.
We will reduce the impacts of climate change by making climate action a top priority in our decisions. We will maximise opportunities through our plans, strategies and programmes, to build long-lasting resilience to climate change, demonstrating leadership in carbon reduction and supporting emerging transformative technologies and sectors. Our aim is that Oxfordshire will be carbon neutral by 2040, or earlier if possible, and by 2050 will be moving towards a carbon negative future.
We will place overall health and physical and mental well-being at the forefront of our decision-making. We will seek to deliver a net increase in the health and well-being of our communities in all our place-shaping decisions and activities, reducing inequalities and helping to enhance the overall quality of life, health and happiness of existing and future residents. This will include providing homes to meet people's needs, jobs to support livelihoods, enhanced access to green spaces, better access to sustainable, inclusive and resilient active and low carbon transport and improvements in air quality. We have access to some of the greatest health care facilities and minds in the world in Oxfordshire and through working closely with the universities and health organisations, we will ensure we are leading on prevention and healthy place-shaping.
We will enhance our natural capital assets through our plans, strategies and programmes, recognising the significant contribution natural capital makes to our quality of place, the health and well-being of our communities, and their value in building resilience to climate change, reducing flood risk, increasing biodiversity and boosting economic productivity. We will value Oxfordshire's countryside, our parks and open spaces, the River Thames and our other rivers, canals, reservoirs, lakes, ponds and wetlands. We will protect where necessary, and seek new opportunities to add to and enhance our highly valued countryside, landscape and the greenspaces and environmental assets within the urban areas that provide valued recreation space and vital green lungs. Natural capital is a key reason why many people choose to live here, many businesses choose to locate here, and tourists choose to visit here.
We will ensure that our plans, strategies and programmes reflect the unique and distinctive qualities of places within Oxfordshire, maximising opportunities to deliver the development needed, embracing innovation whilst enhancing our valuable assets and recognising the diversity of our city, towns and villages, the quality of the historic, natural and built environment and the importance of local identity. While we are the most rural county in the South East, the vast majority of our population lives in our city, towns and villages. The diversity of our settlements, the synergy between urban and rural and the benefits both bring are critical to our success.
We will expect all new development to be of the highest quality and design standards, with particular support given to innovative building solutions and sustainable construction methods, and development that improves the overall built environment and promotes good physical and mental health.
We will build stronger collaboration with our partners to secure a plan-led approach to good growth, delivering strategic development opportunities that are aligned with our shared ambition and long-term investment priorities, particularly where these provide opportunities to enhance our strategic connectivity. And, we will create the conditions where people feel involved and empowered, embedding a culture of meaningful involvement and enabling communities to inform and shape local decisions.
We will help communities to be more cohesive and better able to adapt to change, based on accessible and quality key services and infrastructure, good digital connectivity and strong community networks. Communities will be supported and empowered to do the things that matter to improve their health and well-being.
We will foster links with neighbouring areas to facilitate the delivery of good growth through mutually beneficial relationships. Key to this will be ensuring that the Oxfordshire Plan's strategic priorities are fully aligned and integrated with regional and sub-regional priorities including the emerging Oxford-Cambridge Arc.