City Council and Catalyst to ask residents for their views on plans to bring new homes, shops and community facilities to Blackbird Leys

Published: Monday, 1st April 2019

Oxford City Council and Catalyst Housing Ltd ask residents for their views on a development that will bring new shops and community facilities, and at least 250 homes to the heart of Blackbird Leys.

The project, on City Council-owned land, will see Catalyst build at least 250 new homes across two sites, and redevelop Blackbird Leys’ shopping parade, community facilities and outdoor public space.

The development will include homes for social rent and shared ownership. The City Council’s policy is for 40 per cent of housing development to be for social rent and 10 per cent shared ownership.

The City Council and Catalyst have delivered surveys to more than 5,000 households in Blackbird Leys to ask residents how they would like to get involved in the on-going engagement that will take place throughout this year.

Residents can drop off their hand-delivered surveys at Blackbird Leys Community Centre, The Clockhouse and The Barn. Alternatively, they can take part online at:

Residents who fill in the survey by 6 April will be entered into a draw for the chance to win £100 of shopping vouchers for a shop of their choice.

The results from the survey will help to tailor future engagement to residents’ preferences – whether that be through public exhibitions, pop-up stalls at bus stops or outside shops, through existing community group meetings, or online.

Future engagement with residents will help the City Council and Catalyst understand how residents currently use community and leisure facilities in Blackbird Leys, and the types of new facilities and homes they would like to see in the new development.

The City Council and Catalyst will also hold the project’s first drop-in sessions, which will give residents the opportunity to meet the development team and find out more about the project.

The sessions will take place between 12pm and 5pm on Saturday 6 April, and 4.30pm and 8pm on Tuesday 9 April at Jack Argent Room in Blackbird Leys Community Centre.

The project will take place over two sites. It will see:

  • The redevelopment of the district centre in Blackbird Leys Road, which will bring new homes and improved shops, community facilities and public spaces in the heart of Blackbird Leys.
  • A new housing development on land between Knights Road, the Kassam Stadium, Northfield School and Spindleberry Nature Park. The site has been allocated for housing since 2013.

The housing developments will be ‘tenure blind’, meaning the social and private housing will look identical and will be mixed across the developments to contribute to a sustainable community.

The City Council and Catalyst are looking to work with other landowners in the area as part of the project, including Oxfordshire County Council.

During 2019, the City Council and Catalyst will work with the community to draw up plans for the development. The aim is to present these initial designs to residents at The Leys Festival in June.

The aim is to submit a planning application in 2020.

The City Council and Catalyst will work closely with those who will be most affected by the development to find out their needs and ensure they are supported and their needs met.

The district centre in Blackbird Leys was developed in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Blackbird Leys development follows the City Council’s current housing development at Barton Park, which will see 885 new homes – 40 per cent of which will be for social rent – built as part of a public-private partnership with Grosvenor Britain & Ireland.

The fabric of Barton Park has been developed to encourage healthy lifestyles – including outdoor gym equipment running through a network of parks and open spaces, and streets designed for walking and cycling – and to encourage interaction between the existing and new communities through tenure blind housing, parks, allotments, civic squares, and leisure and community facilities.

Oxford City Council has invested millions of pounds into Blackbird Leys over recent years, including building the £9m Leys Pools and Leisure Centre, refurbishing Evenlode and Windrush towers, and improving parking provision across the estate. An area of The Leys is within the 10 per cent most deprived areas in England and Wales.

The City Council appointed Catalyst to develop the sites in Blackbird Leys in October. Since then, Catalyst has been meeting with Holy Family Church advisors and Oxfordshire County Council to understand the plans for their sites, had preliminary discussions with city planners, and met with ward and parish councillors.

Catalyst Housing Ltd is a housing association based in the South East. In the 1990s Catalyst worked with Oxford City Council to develop more than 600 homes in Blackbird Leys, which the association continues to manage today.

Councillor Linda Smith, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “This is the first stage of the consultation with Catalyst and provides Blackbird Leys residents with a chance to say how they want to be involved in the project going forward. There will then be lots of opportunities over the coming months for residents to help shape the development.

“While it is fantastic that this project will deliver new community facilities, public spaces and shops in Blackbird Leys, the main aim is to help address the acute need for new homes in Oxford, including new social rent homes. I personally know that there are many young people in Blackbird Leys now who are stuck living with their parents or sofa surfing because they cannot afford to buy or rent a home in Oxford. This project will help address that.”

Ian McDermott, Chief Executive Officer at Catalyst, said: “Catalyst built our first homes and set up an office base and community buildings in Blackbird Leys in the early 1990’s. Since then, Catalyst has played an active part in working with, and supporting, the local community there.

“We are committed to working with local people and agencies to develop the new homes and facilities for Blackbird Leys, and want to make sure that these help to meet local needs and priorities.”