The proposed new Oxpens River Bridge, designed for both pedestrians and cyclists, will provide a direct, convenient and visually pleasing connection between the two regeneration areas of Osney Mead and Oxpens, and an off-road pedestrian and cycle route to the City Centre and Oxford Train Station.
The bridge will also connect homes in south Oxford with the West End of the city centre, including the new employment sites and train station.
- A public consultation on initial designs took place in person and online in summer 2022
- A contractor has been appointed to create a design and delivery strategy, which will be published in summer 2023
- The City Council is aiming to submit a planning application in summer 2023
- If planning permission is granted, work could start in early 2024, with the aim of completing the new bridge in 2025
Have your say
Following the public consultation in the summer, the comments received were reviewed and, where feasible, incorporated into the design.
The next opportunity for public review will be during the planning application process in the summer/autumn 2023.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is a new bridge needed here?
A series of regeneration projects are planned to regenerate the West End of Oxford and increase the number of residents, workers and visitors in the area.
This includes the redevelopment of Oxford Train Station, Oxpens and Osney Mead Industrial Estate.
With more people using the area, in order to minimise congestion at existing routes in and out of the area, the Oxford Local Plan and West End Area SPD (Supplementary Planning Document) identified the need for better connections between areas, particularly east to west over the Thames.
The proposed new bridge, designed for both pedestrians and cyclists, will provide a direct, convenient and visually pleasing connection between the two growth areas at Osney Mead and Oxpens and an off-road pedestrian and cycle route to the City Centre from the South.
Gasworks Rail Bridge and Gasworks Pipe Bridge
There are two existing bridges across the Thames in the area, the Gasworks Rail Bridge and the Gasworks Pipe Bridge.
The Gasworks Pipe Bridge is being repaired under a separate project; this is expected to be completed and re-opened in 2023.
The use of the Gasworks Rail Bridge to improve connections in the West End has been considered but is not feasible, as it would require significant alterations to the bridge, and gradients of connecting paths, to make it suitable for cycling.
Creating a bike route over the Castle Mill stream and through the meadow would require a new bridge and a raised route to avoid flooding. This route would be longer, less direct and would involve greater construction within the meadow.
Conflict between pedestrians and cyclists
A four metre-wide unsegregated shared-use bridge and unsegregated shared-use connecting paths are proposed. This will provide sufficient width to reduce the potential for conflict between cyclist and pedestrians. The provision meets current standards and guidance on new cycle provision.
The bridge is likely to attract a wide range of users, including dog walkers, families, and visitors to the city, all naturally wanting to explore or view the area from both sides of the bridge width.
Potential conflict between pedestrians and cyclists using the bridge was discussed during the public consultation.
Segregating the bridge into separate lanes for pedestrians and cyclists would result in a wider bridge that would be more visually intrusive, more impactful on the ecology of the site and involve more materials and associated carbon. It would also be difficult to enforce the segregation and could result in cyclists failing to slow down as they travel over the bridge.
The legal status of even a segregated footway and cycleway is that pedestrians can use both sides. We want to avoid the potential perception that cyclists have right of way, which may increase cycle speeds and give the impression to pedestrians that the cycleway is an area not permitted for their use.
A “shared” provision is likely to provide a more flexible space in terms of self-enforcement of appropriate speeds at busy times, i.e., people walking across the full width of the bridge may help prevent cyclists dominating the space.
The decision has been made not to light the bridge at this time. However, the bridge design will provide the option for the lighting to be ‘retrofitted’, i.e., provision of ducts etc., to include sensitive lighting, as the housing development is built.
Consultation responses were divided and inconclusive about the provision of lighting.
Concerns were raised about partially lighting routes to, and from, the bridge, causing difficulties for people moving between lit and unlit areas. Lighting the bridge and connecting paths would improve the sense of safety of people using the bridge, particularly during the winter months.
This is a sensitive ecological area along the Thames and Grandpont Nature Reserve, so any future lighting will have to be carefully designed to minimise disruption to the habitats of animals, including bats.
Impact on Ecology and Trees
Impacts on habitat and species on the site have been considered during the development of the bridge design to minimise disruption to habitats and avoid excessive light along the river.
The location of the bridge has been sited away from the area of Grandpont that has the best-quality habitats and trees.
Proposals will minimise impacts and, where this cannot be avoided, achieving 5% biodiversity net gain will compensate.
This will be met through enhancements to the bankside habitat of the River Thames, including the planting of marginal vegetation and additional tree and scrub planting within Grandpont Nature Park and the wider area.
On completion of the bridge, bird nest and bat-roosting boxes will be installed on retained trees within the Grandpont Nature Park to provide additional habitat for these species.
During the construction works, appropriate working practices will be implemented to avoid harm to protected species, including breeding birds, with works carried out under a district licence in relation to the potential presence of great crested newts.
Due to the sensitive nature of the site, it was felt that the bridge structure should be as visually lightweight and unobtrusive as possible where it crosses the meadow.
The resulting bridge design is a carefully considered response to the site, both in terms of aesthetics, local character and engineering.
The length of the bridge span puts additional requirements on the bridge structure, so therefore, a timber construction would not be feasible. Timber also has increased maintenance requirements.
The span of the bridge ensures the Thames path is not impacted by support structures, and on the north side, access is raised to provide a dry route at times of flood.
The approaches to the bridge are designed to meet accessibility requirements, avoiding steep slopes while also ensuring the bridge connects to the right places on the best available lines.
The proposed approach seeks to minimise impacts on views by locating the supporting structure away from the point the bridge crosses the river Thames and the meadow.
The supporting structure takes the form of two waves which also serve to frame views and create a sense of rhythm when passing over the bridge.
Where the bridge crosses the meadows, the design seeks to achieve balance between the number and size of the supporting columns, again to ensure the bridge appears as lightweight as possible.
Upon completion of the bridge, the structure will become the responsibility of Oxfordshire County Council for upkeep and maintenance. The design of the bridge has been deliberately considered to support the ease of maintenance. The bridge width and heights are sufficiently open to reduce the likelihood of people congregating underneath it. The materials, including steel, are easy to clean.
Funding has been secured from the Oxfordshire Growth Deal Funding, for which the County Council is the accountable body. This funding was awarded by the government to support the delivery of housing, a planned part of the West End redevelopment. The City Council cannot use the funding for alternative projects, as this would breach the funding agreement with the County Council.
Path improvements connecting to the bridge are to be funded by Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF). This funding was secured by the City Council to support the delivery of infrastructure to support housing growth.