Draft Core Strategy January 2011

Draft Core Strategy January 2011 - interactive online version

2 Issues and Challenges

2.1 West Oxfordshire is a largely rural district to the west of Oxford and adjoining Gloucestershire, and Warwickshire. With a population of just over 100,000 and area of 71,500 hectares (276 square miles), this is one of the least densely populated areas in the South East. Dispersed across the District are around 130 separate towns, villages and hamlets. 40% of people live in the two largest towns of Witney (27,000) and Carterton (16,000). Nearly 60% of the 81 parishes contain less than 500 residents.

2.2 The City of Oxford and its Green Belt lies to the east and is the focus for the District's main transport connections. Major housing and employment growth is planned for Bicester and Didcot and at Swindon in the M4 corridor to the south. To the west is Cotswold District, primarily a rural area, and similar in character to West Oxfordshire. Shared management arrangements are in place between West Oxfordshire and Cotswold Districts. Figure 2.1 identifies West Oxfordshire in its wider setting.

2.3 The following table summarises the issues and challenges facing West Oxfordshire. The main challenge is to meet the needs of local communities whilst maintaining West Oxfordshire's high environmental quality. Further information is available in other sections of this document and in supporting evidence, in the accompanying Sustainability Appraisal and in Shaping Futures (the Sustainable Community Strategy).

Figure 2.1 West Oxfordshire in its wider setting (click to enlarge)

West Oxfordshire in its wider setting

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • High quality environment - landscape, built heritage and biodiversity
  • Generally good place to live with a high quality of life
  • Strong and articulate community groups
  • Vibrant and expanding Witney town centre
  • Strong and diverse local economy including many small businesses, specialisms in high-tech manufacturing and engineering plus RAF Brize Norton
  • Relatively skilled workforce with no major skills gaps
  • Relatively low unemployment
  • No significant areas of dereliction
  • Oxfordshire Cotswolds - important tourism sector with nationally important attractions
  • Severe traffic congestion in Witney and on Oxford approach roads, particularly A40 east of Witney
  • Air pollution problems within Witney and Chipping Norton
  • Dependence upon rural road network
  • Limited public transport
  • Limited opportunities for safe travel by foot or cycle outside main towns
  • Towns not directly served by rail
  • Disturbance from activity at RAF Brize Norton
  • Increasing shortages of affordable housing
  • Areas with poor access to services and facilities
  • Limited access to high speed broadband
  • Trend for loss/closure of rural services
  • Small pockets of rural poverty with lower wages for workers in West Oxon compared to those travelling to work elsewhere
  • Generally limited or no spare capacity in existing schools

Opportunities

Challenges

  • New development to help secure increased affordable housing provision as well as new supporting infrastructure, including green infrastructure
  • Achievement of a more self-contained local economy
  • Investment at RAF Brize Norton
  • Capitalising on and contributing to the Oxfordshire high tech economy
  • Improvements in internet and mobile phone technology
  • New sustainable construction methods and renewable energy schemes
  • Investment in town centres
  • Strong tourism offer
  • Biodiversity Conservation Target Areas
  • Biomass and woodland management
  • Sustainable drainage schemes
  • Provision of new green infrastructure through after-use of mineral working
  • Meeting the needs of local communities with access to services and facilities whilst maintaining West Oxfordshire's high environmental quality
  • Provision of new housing to meet needs of smaller households and older population
  • Delivery of an increased supply of affordable housing in an area of high house prices
  • Reduction in our higher than average carbon footprint
  • Reducing dependence upon travel by private car
  • Long distance travel to nearby urban centres and London
  • Pressures from growth centres in proximity to West Oxon
  • Climate change - extreme weather events
  • Flood risk
  • Use of Greenfield land to meet development needs
  • Satisfactorily accommodating and benefitting from the expansion of RAF Brize Norton
  • Enhancement of retail offer in Carterton town centre
  • Modernisation of older employment stock
  • Support for local agriculture and country estates
  • Mitigating impact of sand and gravel extraction