Policy Option 27: Meeting Skills and Education Needs

Policy Option 27: Meeting Skills and Education Needs

The Further and Higher Education (FEHE) sectors are one of the economic assets of Oxfordshire. The Universities of Oxford are world class and play a central role in the dynamism of the Oxfordshire economy, bringing forward innovation and technology, as well as new investment and company spinouts that act as a major driver of the economic success of the county.

Oxfordshire has historically had a high education and skills base, but the offer to young people as a whole has not always reflected this. We will encourage and support development that will diversify and strengthen the skills and education base into the future to encourage its continued role in the innovation ecosystem. Apprenticeships can also play a vital role in delivering the skilled workforce that is required.

We recognise that reorganisation and re-provision is likely to take place over the next 20-30 years, as Government policy changes, to provide new services to students of all ages, to respond quickly to demographic changes, improve skills access and to use land and property more efficiently and effectively. This enabling policy is designed to support effective forward planning by the sector to continue to meet the needs of training and education providers, as well as businesses of all sectors in Oxfordshire.

The provision of primary and secondary education facilities, along with those for early years and lifelong learning has a critical role to play in supporting population growth as well as meeting new training needs and improving access to the world of work. The demand for pre-school facilities is increasing due to changes in lifestyles and work patterns and is a critical underpinning of the economic dynamism of Oxfordshire.

We recognise the important role that skills and training facilities and schools have to play in maintaining the quality of life of communities and will support the growth plans of schools. The County Council in its role as Local Education Authority is responsible for securing provision of new schools and school places. It has a statutory duty to ensure that there are enough school places. The local planning authorities will work with the County Council and the FEHE sector to support the range of education and training facilities required, including provision of nursery, primary and secondary schools; further and higher education facilities; community learning facilities; special schools and specialist post 16 education; and other educational facilities as required. This may include seeking the provision of new schools, contributions towards these facilities or contributions towards expanding existing facilities as new growth takes place.

We want to ensure that the design of these facilities is flexible enough to accommodate the changing needs of their users and the communities they serve, while recognising safety concerns. Where appropriate and agreed with the education & skills provider the use of the facilities after hours will be encouraged to support learning among the wider community and may be able to enhance recreation provision. New skills and educational buildings should be located in sustainable locations within the built-up limits of settlements to secure active travel and improved public transport connectivity; as well as being considered within regeneration schemes to encourage social mobility and 'upskilling'.

Policy Options

The preferred policy option seeks to ensure that there is a framework policy in place to enable future development or the land use aspects of the reorganisations of skills and education facilities to be considered in a consistent way, especially where the provision reaches beyond administrative boundaries. This is an issue that has also arisen in a number of Duty to Co-operate discussions with neighbouring Councils.

One alternative policy option is to leave these considerations to future local plans, but our recommendation is to put a framework policy in place to enable forward planning by the institutions affected, with their developers in conjunction with the local planning authority and Oxfordshire County Council.

Preferred Policy Proposal

Policy Option 27: Meeting Skills and Education Needs

To support the provision of modern and up to date facilities to support existing and future education and training needs across the county:

The local planning authority should work with partners to support the provision of new schools, universities and colleges, community learning and other training facilities which provide for education and the development of skills across each district, the city and county-wide, where needed.

The provision of new facilities that are integrated into regeneration opportunities to support social mobility will be encouraged.Education and training facilities should be designed to:

a. achieve a high degree of durability and environmental efficiency to minimise maintenance and running costs;

b. increase use of renewable energy and help reduce use of carbon; 

c. provide a safe, secure and pleasant environment conducive to learning; 

d. be sustainably designed and located to promote sustainable methods of travel, both by active travel and by public transport; and 

e. be designed to enable future expansion and long-term flexibility, as required.

The co-location of community and education facilities will be supported where they create community hubs that can serve the needs of the community and catchments that cross administrative boundaries.Where proposals relate to large schemes or strategic housing developments or the expansion of existing campuses, an integrated, coordinated and comprehensive planning approach would be taken and a masterplan would be prepared, in collaboration and agreed with the local planning authority/ies, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) and other statutory undertakers covering the development of the whole site or sites. This will be especially important where the catchment crosses administrative boundaries. Any new education sites must comply with the OCC guidance documents issued at that time to ensure efficient and effective use of the site.

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