West Oxfordshire Local Plan Housing Consultation

Demographic Projections

4.5 Demographic projections provide a starting point for considering how many new homes might be needed in the future. There are two key variables: future population (the number and mix of people that are likely to reside in an area) and household formation (how likely those people are to form new households and therefore require housing).

4.6 Importantly, population and household projections are 'trend-based' and identify what would happen if past-trends were to continue. As such, they must be treated with caution to ensure they are not affected by any particular 'one-off' events such as a large housing development, or closure of a major employer.

4.7 The latest Government household projections for Oxfordshire are set out in Table 4.2 below:

Table 4.2 - Interim Household Projections for Oxfordshire 2011 - 2021 (Source: DCLG) 


Households 2011

Households 2021

Change in households

% change from 2011











South Oxfordshire










West Oxfordshire











4.8 In West Oxfordshire the number of households is projected to increase by 5,274 over the 10-year period 2011 - 2021 (527 per annum). It is important to consider whether this is a realistic scenario or not. The graph below shows how the projection compares with actual household numbers in previous years.

Figure 4.1 - Number of Households in West Oxfordshire 1991 - 2021

Figure 4.1 - Number of Households in West Oxfordshire 1991 - 2021



4.9 It is evident that:

  • Between 1991 and 2001 the number of households in West Oxfordshire increased by 3,372 (337 per annum)
  • Between 2001 and 2011, the number of households increased by 4,964 (496 per annum)
  • Over the 20-year period 1991 - 2011 the number of households increased by 8,336 (417 per annum)

4.10 The latest household projection to 2021 is therefore higher than any of these previous trends and the reasons for this must be carefully considered.

4.11 It is also important to consider how the projections for West Oxfordshire compare with other areas. Notably, in percentage terms, West Oxfordshire's projected increase in households to 2021 (12.1%) is much higher than the county average (7.0%) and is also above the regional (10.8%) and national (10.0%) averages.

4.12 It is also significantly higher than neighbouring Cotswold District, which has a projected increase of just 2,583 households by 2021 (258 per annum) a 7.1% increase, despite the similar characteristics to West Oxfordshire.

4.13 The key question is whether the household projections for West Oxfordshire are a reasonable basis upon which to identify a Local Plan housing target.

4.14 As part of the SHMA process, the consultants have sought to interrogate the official DCLG household projections and have prepared two alternative projections.

4.15 The first projection uses the official DCLG figures and extends them to 2031. Table 4.3 sets out the results for each authority.

Table 4.3 - SHMA Projection 1 Results for Oxfordshire (Source: Tables 33 - 42 Oxfordshire SHMA (2014)


Population increase per annum

Population increase total (2011 - 2031)

Housing numbers per annum

Housing numbers total

(2011 - 2031)






Oxford City





South Oxon










West Oxon






4.16 For West Oxfordshire the number of homes needed under this projection is 512 per year.

4.17 The second demographic projection extends the DCLG projection to 2031 and also updates some data anomalies relating to migration. These changes mainly affect Oxford City but also have an effect on the other Oxfordshire authorities. The results are set out in Table 4.4 below.

Table 4.4 - SHMA Projection 2 Results for Oxfordshire (Source: Tables 33 - 42 Oxfordshire SHMA (2014)


Population increase per annum

Population increase total

(2011 - 2031)

Housing numbers per annum

Housing numbers total

(2011 - 2031)






Oxford City





South Oxon










West Oxon






4.18 Under this projection the number of homes needed increases in all areas with the exception of Cherwell. For West Oxfordshire, it increases to 541 homes per year. The SHMA suggests that this second projection represents the starting point for identifying overall housing need.

4.19 Importantly, Government practice guidance emphasises that the weight to be afforded to household projections should take account of the fact that they have not been tested or moderated against relevant constraints. It states that:

'Because household projections are based on past trends, if a Council has robust evidence that past high delivery rates that inform the projections are no longer realistic - for example they relied on a particular set of circumstances that could not be expected to occur again - they can adjust their projections down accordingly'.

4.20 Notably, the SHMA acknowledges that the household projections for West Oxfordshire (and Cherwell) are above the national and regional averages. It states that in West Oxfordshire in particular, this appears to have been influenced by stronger relative past housing delivery.

4.21 It goes on to state that:

'West Oxfordshire stands out as having delivered significantly higher housing provision relative to its South East Plan targets over the 2006-11 period. It delivered almost 1,400 additional homes over and above its housing target. This level of growth was a result of several urban extensions coming forward at the same time, resulting in high levels of in-migration which have influenced household projections moving forward. As such, the District Council may wish to further consider this in light of the Planning Practice Guidance which highlights the need to consider previous over-supply as well as under-supply. No adjustment to figures has been made at the SHMA, but there is potentially a good basis for doing so with referenceto previous household projections and needs' assessments alongside the South East Plan targets'.

4.22 The high rate of house building in West Oxfordshire during the period 2006 - 2011 is illustrated on the graph below.

Figure 4.2 - Housing completions in West Oxfordshire 1991 - 2011


4.23 This was essentially a consequence of several large housing schemes coming forward at the same time including:

  • Shilton Park, Carterton (greenfield urban extension)
  • Madley Park, Witney (greenfield urban extension)
  • Early's Mill, Witney (previously developed, urban site)
  • Bridge Street Mill, Witney (previously developed, urban site)
  • Former Parker Knoll factory, Chipping Norton (previously developed, urban site)

4.24 In light of the SHMA recommendation and the Government's practice guidance, the Council has commissioned a separate report which considers a range of different issues including the extent to which the previously high rates of house building in West Oxfordshire have influenced the Government's future population and household projections.

4.25 The Woodhead report identifies that there has been a particular 'spike' in net migration into West Oxfordshire caused in part by the large number of homes built in the District since 2001. These past trends are very important because they form the basis of future population projections.

4.26 The increase in migration is illustrated in Figure 4.3.


Figure 4.3 - Components of Population Change in West Oxfordshire 2001 - 2011




4.27 It is relevant to note that between 2001 and 2011, 5,800 new homes were built in West Oxfordshire (580 per year) and the population increased by 9,741 people. This was caused primarily by net migration of around 7,750 people (775 per annum) with natural change accounting for an increase of just 2,500 people (250 per annum).

4.28 In the previous decade 1991 - 2001, only 3,640 homes were built (360 per year) and the population increased by just 4,700 people, the majority of which (3,100 or 310 per annum) was a result of natural change with net migration accounting for just 1,600 (160 per annum).

4.29 It is logical to conclude therefore that in the period 2001 - 2011 the large number of homes built led to a large increase in population, primarily as a result of people moving into the District from elsewhere.

4.30 This is important because it is this more recent period that informs the current population and household projections that form the basis of the SHMA (2014).

4.31 The population projections used in the SHMA for example assume that in the period 2011 to 2021 the population of West Oxfordshire will increase by 11,300 people of which 4,100 will be through natural change (410 per annum) and 7,200 through net migration (720 per annum).

4.32 It is evident that the high rate of in-migration experienced in West Oxfordshire during the period 2001 - 2011 (775 per annum) is being reflected in future projections (720 per annum).

4.33 The Woodhead report demonstrates that when a longer-term average migration rate of 455 per annum is used, the projected increase in population and households is lower than suggested in the SHMA and would result in a dwelling requirement of around 484 homes per annum over the period 2011 - 2029 (8,712 homes in total).

4.34 It is also relevant to note that since the SHMA was published in April 2014, more up to date population projections have been released which suggest that the population of West Oxfordshire in 2021 will be around 1,400 less than the previous forecasts used to inform the SHMA.

4.35 The new 2012-based population projections have been modelled in the Woodhead report using several different assumptions regarding household formation. The report concludes that on the basis of these new projections, in the period 2011 - 2029 the number of new homes needed ranges from 8,254 to 9,917 the midpoint of which is 9,086 homes.