If EPIC has appeared a little quiet recently, fear not! We have been busy behind the scenes, engaging in strategic background work (plus the usual letter writing and meetings) to better plan our next moves and improve our working relationships with WODC and Grosvenor (the Garden Village developer).
Some of this activity was triggered by our experience of the first two meetings of the Community Engagement Forum (facilitated by WODC and attended by various representatives of local groups, consultants and other interested parties). The forum was set up as part of the WODC programme delivery team to develop an Area Action Plan for the Garden Village. It is an opportunity for the team to provide organisations and groups in Eynsham and surrounding villages with regular updates about progress, and to have a voice and input into their key areas of interest. WODC say that they value our local knowledge and expertise in informing the 'Area Action Plan, and the eventual Masterplan, to make the Garden Village the best it can be'.
In theory, forums are a good idea: a collaborative effort, where evidence-based decisions can be made, for the best possible outcome for environment and community. In EPIC’s opinion, the process so far has left a lot to be desired in giving us a sufficient or strong enough voice.
In response to this, we are trying for a more satisfactory community engagement process and have consulted an independent advisor to this effect; as well as engaging in frank talks with WODC. Let us hope the call for transparency, and better partnership, is heeded.
There is another forum meeting towards the end of this month. We’ll let you know it how it goes.
Recipe for bad planning and decision-making
The 100,000 homes already planned by our Councils are a target based on the Oxfordshire Growth Board's economic growth aspirations, rather than an accurate forecast based on the Office for National Statistics' lower projected increase in households. The latest figures for 'objectively assessed need' for new homes in Oxford City, and by implication elsewhere in the county, are lower still.
In the succinct report below, Nigel explains this discrepancy. He also points out the lack of co-ordination across Oxfordshire in responding to the Oxford-Cambridge Arc initiative to build an expressway, railway and one million homes between Oxford and Cambridge.