Draft Local Plan October 2012

Burford - Charlbury Sub-Area


9.114 This is the largest of the sub-areas and has a predominantly rural character, with a population of about 13,000. It includes a network of small and medium sized villages, none larger than 3,000 residents. The majority of the area is within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and many of the towns and villages have extensive conservation areas and many listed buildings. There are two designated rural service centres; Burford and Charlbury. With a population of 1,300 Burford is the smallest of the District's service centres but has a level of services which belies its size and is one of West Oxfordshire's most popular tourist attractions. With a population of just under 3,000, Charlbury lies in the centre of West Oxfordshire on the Cotswolds rail line.

9.115 Other larger settlements in this area include the villages of Milton under Wychwood and Shipton under Wychwood (population of 1,500 and 1,300 respectively). Both villages are within the Cotswolds AONB. Stonesfield has a population of about 1,500 and has a thriving community spirit, with a range of local services and facilities. It is popular with walkers and cyclists being a focus of rural footpaths and bridleways, including the Oxfordshire Way.


9.116 The existing housing stock in this sub-area is relatively evenly distributed with no single major large settlement. In Burford, there have been no sites allocated for residential development since the late 1980s. The environmental quality of the town makes it a desirable place to live but restricts the availability of suitable sites for new housing. These factors combine to make housing in Burford particularly expensive. Rural exception sites for affordable housing are being progressed on the eastern edge of the town.

9.117 Charlbury remained largely unchanged until the 20th century with three quarters of the houses in the town having been built since 1900 and well over half since 1950. From 1981 to 1996 almost 200 new homes were built and since then a further 100 homes have been added to the town including 44 affordable homes. Housing affordability is a key issue in this area with house prices in Charlbury being above the District average. A rural exception site for affordable housing is being progressed on the edge of the town.

9.118 Milton under Wychwood has seen the addition of more modern development than its neighbour Shipton under Wychwood and although dispersed at its edges, the main part of the village is relatively densely developed. An extra care housing scheme is being progressed on the edge of the village. At Shipton, former dispersed hamlets have now been largely consolidated by linear infill and modern estate development. The settlement therefore has a relatively dense core but is dispersed at its edges, open spaces between forming key parts of the settlement character.

9.119 Stonesfield has seen considerable consolidation of development in the past with redevelopment of farmyards and conversion of barns for housing primarily during the 1980s. There has been only limited new build in recent years as few opportunities remain for residential intensification. A rural exception site for affordable housing has recently been completed on the edge of the village.

9.120 In accordance with the overall strategy, additional housing development in this sub-area will be focused on Burford and Charlbury as rural service centres although given the relatively limited capacity of these settlements, some development may be necessary in the larger villages.


9.121 As a predominantly rural area, employment opportunities in this sub-area are more limited but there are a number of small industrial estates and offices, many in converted buildings and within or on the edge of the towns and larger villages. A significant isolated employment site exists at Leafield Technical Centre with a long association with motorsport. At Charlbury, there are now few employment sites within the built up area although some local employment is provided nearby, for example adjacent to the railway station and within Cornbury Park. Shipton and Milton under Wychwood both have small employment areas with a number of small business units which appear well occupied. Further employment opportunities will be able to come forward in this area through the redevelopment, intensification and expansion of existing employment sites and small scale rural diversification schemes.

Retail & Leisure

9.122 There are retail and leisure opportunities across the sub-area including in particular Burford town centre which has a relatively high number of shops, hotels, pubs and restaurants catering for the tourist and visitor market, with very low vacancy rates. The availability of car parking to support the town centre is key issue. Opportunities to improve the efficient use of available car parking and increase capacity will need to be taken where appropriate. Charlbury also has a variety of leisure and social activities for its residents and a range of shops and local services and facilities. The level of shopping and employment in the town has however diminished, particularly over the last twenty years, despite a growth in the town's population.

9.123 The Wychwoods each have a reasonable range of services and facilities and share some services such as the new purpose-built doctors' surgery, now located in Shipton, and the primary school located between the two villages. Each village has a post office and several shops, community hall and recreation ground. Stonesfield also has a range of local services and facilities.


9.124 Key road links in this area include the A40 which runs through Burford east - west, the A361 linking Burford with Chipping Norton and the A424 linking with Burford with Stow on the Wold. This sub-area is the best served in terms of rail services with the Cotswold line running along the Evenlode Valley and passenger stations at Kingham, Shipton under Wychwood, Ascott under Wychwood, Charlbury and Finstock. Oxfordshire County Council's draft Rail Strategy identifies a number of potential improvements to rail services in this area including redoubling the remaining single-track section between Charlbury and Wolvercot Junction. Bus services are relatively limited although Charlbury offers good access to Witney, Chipping Norton, Oxford and the Wychwoods.

The Environment

9.125 This sub-area is particularly environmentally sensitive being covered almost entirely by the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Burford is identified as within the Upper Windrush Valley Landscape character area which has been described as an area that is highly attractive, remarkably unspoilt and with a rural character. The Upper Windrush is rich in biodiversity and is designated a Conservation Target Area. Wychwood Forest (part National Nature Reserve) is the basis of an extensive Project Area to revive the landscape character and mix of habitats associated with this former royal hunting forest.

9.126 Charlbury has a very strong landscape and environmental setting, lying as it does in the Cotswolds AONB and the Wychwood Project Area. With Charlbury lying in the catchment area for the River Evenlode, and with a number of spring-fed tributaries of the Evenlode flowing through or close to the town, the exceptional rainfall experienced during summer 2007 resulted in flooding within the area. This is an area particularly rich in biodiversity with Stonesfield Common Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to the south and west. The village of Shipton under Wychwood sits within a sensitive valley side context within an extensive conservation area and within the Cotswolds AONB. The northern part of the village is subject to significant flooding constraints.

9.127 The area is also significant in terms of the historic environment. Much of Burford is covered by a Conservation Area and is home to a number of listed buildings. There is evidence of settlement in the Charlbury area since Neolithic and Bronze ages and an extensive Conservation Area covers the built-up area of the town, plus its immediate setting. Many of the Cotswold stone buildings are listed for their architectural or historic interest. Shipton is designated a Conservation Area and contains many listed structures and unlisted vernacular buildings. Much of Stonesfield has been built in the Cotswolds vernacular with stone walls and slate roofs and has been designated a Conservation Area.


9.128 Despite being predominantly rural, this sub-area is reasonably well served by infrastructure which meets primarily local needs. There is a range of shops and services available in Burford, Charlbury, Stonesfield and the Wychwoods as well as in some of the other smaller villages including Kingham. The main considerations appear to be improvements to public transport including bus and rail and primary education provision where pressure on school capacity is expected to continue in most schools in this area with the exception of Finstock where some capacity is forecast to continue.

Scope for Further Expansion

9.129 Although it is extremely environmentally sensitive, this sub-area has good transport links and a range of existing infrastructure which meets primarily local needs. It is appropriate therefore that some future growth is planned for this area. However, it must be recognised that opportunities for future development are relatively limited and the scale of growth therefore needs to be appropriate.

9.130 In Burford, the Town Council is keen to see an increase in the housing stock to provide some affordable housing to enable younger families to live in the town, secure the future of the primary school and increase the supply of key workers. Whilst there is some scope to provide additional dwellings within the built up area, the setting of the listed buildings and conservation area is a key sensitivity, limiting large scale intensification. There are no large previously developed sites in need of redevelopment. The development potential of land surrounding Burford is heavily constrained by the sensitivity of the landscape although there may be some scope for a small scale extension of the built-up area.

9.131 At Charlbury, capacity for further housing within the town is also limited. There are no large previously developed sites and the historic core forms a tight settlement with little potential for new housing, even on small sites. Even within the post-war housing estates, there are few possibilities for intensification of development. The sensitivity of Charlbury's strong landscape and environmental setting mean development on the fringes of the village is unlikely to be acceptable. There is some scope for additional development at the Wychwoods and Stonesfield.

9.132 The most appropriate mechanism for exploring in more detail the options for growth in this sub-area is likely to be through locally driven Neighbourhood Plans. Again, depending on the take-up of such plans, the Council may continue to prepare a 'site allocation' development plan document to identify suitable development opportunities in this area.

CORE POLICY 35 - Burford - Charlbury Sub-Area Strategy

The focus of new development will be Burford and Charlbury and the larger villages. Development in the rural service centres will be of an appropriate scale and type that would help to reinforce the existing service centre role. Development elsewhere will be limited to meeting local community and business needs.

Proposals for development in the sub-area should be consistent with the strategy which includes:

  • delivery of about 350 new homes to include affordable housing and homes for older people and newly forming households
  • ensuring that new development makes appropriate and timely provision for necessary supporting infrastructure, including education, leisure, green infrastructure and other community facilities
  • protection of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
  • protection and enhancement of the Upper Windrush Valley and Wychwood Project Area
  • enhancing public transport and pedestrian and cycle routes and infrastructure together with managing car parking to reduce car use for short journeys
  • avoiding development which will increase the risk of flooding and working with partners such as the Environment Agency to deliver flood mitigation measures
  • support for additional employment opportunities including sustainable tourism and rural diversification
  • seeking the retention and development of local services and community facilities throughout the sub-area and ensuring Burford Town Centre remains vibrant through resisting the loss of shops and other town centre uses, and promoting an increase in the availability and efficient use of parking provision in appropriate locations