Published: Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Plans to aid the post-pandemic recovery of Oxford’s city centre have been approved by the council’s Cabinet on 15 June 2022.

The City Centre Action Plan contains a series of proposals to boost the local economy and create new job opportunities and public spaces, making Oxford a go-to destination for work and play. Improved transport links and new public spaces will open up the city like never before.

To give one example, the Oxford West End regeneration project, which could see new homes, university buildings and businesses built throughout the city’s West End, is the largest-scale mixed-use development the city centre has seen and one of the largest transformation opportunities in the UK.

This Council is also committed to reducing carbon emissions and becoming a Zero Carbon Council by 2030.

Initially launched as a draft document in November 2021, Oxford’s City Centre Action Plan has undergone extensive consultation with local residents and businesses.

The plan began as a collaboration between Oxford City Council and local stakeholders in 2019, in order to identify what actions might be necessary to strengthen the resilience of the city centre.

The intervening COVID-19 pandemic tested this resilience, with the Council taking a number of measures to support businesses in the city centre, such as issuing pavement licences so businesses could keep trading under the new restrictions.

Oxford has been named as one of the UK’S fastest growing cities as well as the top UK city for economic success and well-being of the community for the 4th year in a row. As we emerge for the pandemic, the focus is now on turning one of the most difficult periods in the city’s history to one of positive response and action.

In 2022, the City Council is looking to the future, with the recently-approved Oxford Economic Strategy, which aims to ensure all residents can benefit fairly from Oxford’s continuing economic prosperity, complementing the City Centre Action Plan.

Building on plans started in 2019 as a collaboration between Oxford City Council and local stakeholders, the proposals will help to ensure the city centre continues to perform for the social, economic and environmental good of Oxford and its residents.

The plan focuses on four workstreams over the next eight years:

  1. Connectivity and Access - limiting private vehicles, reducing conflict and congestion and creating space for buses, bikes and people
  2. Public Realm and Animation - improving the look and feel of the city centre, providing events and experiences to bring it to life, so people want to stay longer
  3. Getting the mix right - building on Oxford’s world class innovative and creative spirit, enhancing the city centre as a place to live, start and grow a business, visit and play
  4. Getting the basics right - creating an inclusive, safe and attractive city centre that promotes a diverse range of activities and uses

There are over 20 projects to be delivered, some of which are already underway, including the Oxford West End scheme, and core transport schemes. There are four identified priority projects due to commence. These include:

  • reviewing toilet provision, including a community toilet scheme
  • improving finding the way around the city
  • increasing the number and quality of pavement licenses
  • promotion of the city

The City Council can’t deliver these projects in isolation, so establishing a Delivery Board key representatives from both Councils, local businesses and stakeholders will be the next step in bringing the City Centre Action Plan to life.

The Delivery Board’s primary objectives will be:

  • overseeing the delivery of projects
  • seeking funding
  • ‘future-proofing’ the city by assessing new projects
  • providing support to projects

The projects will reflect the Council’s #OxfordtoZero campaign to help spread awareness of how we are working to tackle the climate emergency in Oxford.

Specifically related projects include transport proposals, encouraging electric buses, modal shift, and active travel, new delivery solutions and ‘greening’ the city where possible.

Both the City Centre Action Plan and Oxford Economic Strategy have been aligned with the targets agreed by the Citizen’s Assembly for Climate Change.

“A number of important revisions were made to Oxford’s City Centre Action Plan in response to stakeholder feedback and I’d like to thank all those who took the time to respond to the consultation. It’s very important any plans we develop capture the views of local people.

“The need for flexibility and change has been recognised in the Oxford Vision 2050 and Oxford Local Plan 2036. The aim of this plan is to identify specific issues and interventions focused on improving the resilience of the city centre in an integrated, fair and inclusive way. Across all of the projects, diversity, inclusion and accessibility for all residents of, and visitors to, Oxford is an agreed priority.

“We have many wonderful green spaces and waterways in the city and part of the City Centre Action Plan will be to consider how we can promote these and make better use of them.”

Councillor Imogen Thomas, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice at Oxford City Council

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