West Oxfordshire Proposed Submission Local Plan 2011-2031

Burford - Charlbury Sub-Area

9.6.1 This is the largest of the sub-areas covering an area of almost 22,000 hectares. It has a predominantly rural character and is relatively sparsely populated with just 13,000 residents. The area includes a network of small and medium sized towns and villages, none larger than 3,000 residents. The vast majority of the area is within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and many of the towns and villages have extensive conservation areas and numerous listed buildings.

Fig 9.17 Burford Charlbury Sub Area


9.6.2 There are two designated rural service centres within this sub-area; 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.

9.6.3 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). 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.


9.6.4 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.

9.6.5 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.

9.6.6 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. 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.

9.6.7 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.


9.6.8 As a predominantly rural area, employment opportunities in this sub-area are relatively 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.

9.6.9 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.

9.6.10 This sub-area provides around 5,600 jobs, 13.4% of the District total. The resident workforce is highly skilled with a large proportion in professional occupations or holding managerial positions. The area is characterised by high-levels of home working with around 35% of workers working at or mainly from home. This helps to keep a reasonable job/workforce balance. Compared to the eastern parts of the District, there is less commuting to Oxford and adjoining areas.


9.6.11 Key road links in this area include the A40 which runs along the southern edge of Burford, the A361 linking Burford with Swindon and Chipping Norton and the A424 linking Burford with Stow on the Wold. At Burford, HGV transport is a significant concern for local people as freight traffic travels through the town along the A361.

9.6.12 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 is in the process of developing a rail strategy informed by a rail demand forecasting exercise in 2013. Consultation is expected in 2015. Two of the identified strategic priorities include the completion of the Cotswold line redoubling project (the remaining single-track section between Charlbury and Wolvercote Junction) and enhancing access to local rail stations by supporting appropriate expansion in car parking and the provision of secure and accessible cycle parking.

9.6.13 The availability and frequency of bus services is variable. Services through Charlbury are good, with hourly direct services to Woodstock, Oxford, Witney and Chipping Norton. Bus services in Burford are less well developed, although there is a service to Woodstock via Witney and Long Hanborough Station.

9.6.14 There are many opportunities for active travel in the sub area with an extensive network of paths, bridleways and quiet roads providing routes for walking, cycling and riding. There are however, safety issues on fast and busy roads which could be addressed through improved infrastructure.

Retail and Leisure

9.6.15 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 and meeting the everyday needs of local residents. The town has very low vacancy rates and whilst evidence[1] suggests there is no need to plan for new retail development in Burford, it recommends that the loss of existing shops is resisted to protect its vitality and viability. The availability of car parking to support the town centre is another key issue.

9.6.16 Charlbury also has a variety of leisure and social activities for its residents and a range of shops and local services and facilities. The range of shopping and employment in the town has however diminished over time, despite a growth in the town's population.

9.6.17 The Wychwoods each have a reasonable range of services and facilities and share some services such as the purpose-built GP surgery, 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.

1. Retail Needs Assessment Update (2012) [back]

Environment and Heritage

9.6.18 This area is particularly environmentally sensitive being covered almost entirely by the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Burford falls 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[2] to restore the landscape character and mix of habitats associated with this former royal hunting forest.

9.6.19 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.

9.6.20 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.

9.6.21 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.

9.6.22 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.

2. http://www.wychwoodproject.org/wps/wcm/connect/occ/Wychwood/Home/ [back]


9.6.23 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.

9.6.24 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.

Scope for Further Expansion

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

9.6.26 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.

9.6.27 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 that significant development on the fringes of the town is unlikely to be acceptable. There is some scope for additional development at the Wychwoods and Stonesfield of an appropriate scale and type.

Key Issues - Summary

9.6.28 Drawing on the brief profile outlined above we can identify a number of key issues and challenges to be addressed in relation to the Burford - Charlbury sub-area. These include:

  • This is a geographically large, predominantly rural area, characterised by a network of small and medium towns and villages.
  • There are two designated service centres including Burford and Charlbury. Burford whilst relatively small in population offers a good range of services and facilities and is a vitally important tourist destination for West Oxfordshire.
  • The area is highly environmentally sensitive with most of it falling within the AONB and including a number of other designations such as the large area of ancient woodland to the south west of Charlbury.
  • The area is also historically important with several historic parks and gardens and many settlements covered by conservation areas and characterised by a number of listed buildings.
  • There has been relatively little past housing delivery compared to other parts of the District, reflecting the environmentally sensitive nature of the area and poor connectivity of some parts.
  • There are very limited opportunities for significant housing development in this area.
  • This is an important area in terms of employment with a large proportion of people employed in professional and managerial positions and accommodating almost 15% of the District's job opportunities.
  • The focus tends to be small industrial estates and offices, many in converted buildings and within or on the edge of the towns and larger villages.
  • The area is characterised by high levels of home working and less commuting towards Oxford compared to the eastern parts of the District.
  • The area includes a number of key road links including the A40, A361 and A424. A particular issue is the movement of HGVs through the historic centre of Burford which causes a number of problems including noise and vibration.
  • Rail services are good with a number of settlements located along the Cotswold line although a number of enhancements are needed including redoubling between Charlbury and Wolvercote as well as improving access to stations and the availability of facilities including adequate parking capacity.
  • Bus services are variable with better provision at Charlbury compared to Burford.
  • There are good opportunities for active travel with a network of rural footpaths and bridleways including the Oxfordshire Way.
  • In terms of retail and leisure a number of the settlements in this area have facilities to meet the needs of local residents. Burford has a particularly strong retail offer geared towards tourists as well as local residents. Evidence suggests there is a need to resist the loss of shops in Burford and also address the issue of parking capacity in order to sustain the vitality and viability of the town.
  • Pressure on primary school capacity is an important consideration for this area.