City Council sets out draft proposals to build new social housing and children’s play areas around Bertie Place

Published: Friday, 8th November 2019

Oxford City Council has set out draft proposals to build new social housing and children’s play areas around Bertie Place off Abingdon Road.

The draft proposals – should they go ahead – would see the City Council build between about 29 and 33 new homes on the recreation ground off Bertie Place.

The proposals are at a very early stage. The City Council still needs to carry out a range of feasibility studies, including on flooding risks and ground contamination, to test whether or not the proposals are viable.

New social housing

Under the draft proposals, the majority of new properties would be two- or three-bedroom family homes, and, subject to viability, at least 50% would be new social housing.

There are currently about 3,000 families on the waiting list to receive social housing in Oxford.

The area has been listed as a development site in every Oxford Local Plan – a key document that sets out where new homes and infrastructure will be built – since 2001.

New children’s play facilities

Under the draft proposals, a smaller but more modern play area – which would be open to the public – would be created within the new housing development.

The nearby play area in Fox Crescent would also be refurbished and new equipment, including swings and modern multi-play climber with slide, would be added.

Cold Harbour scrubland

Additionally, as part of the draft proposals, the City Council is exploring the potential of landscaping and planting parts of the scrubland – known as Cold Harbour – behind Wytham Street and adjacent to Bertie Place Rec to make it more accessible and a nicer environment for the community. This could include planting new trees and shrubs to increase biodiversity, and possibly the creation of a community orchard.

The scrubland is currently overgrown and is only accessible through a narrow foot bridge that cannot easily be navigated with a pushchair.

Low car development           

The City Council, as part of the draft proposals, is also exploring the potential for the site to be a low-car development.

The nearby Abingdon Road and Redbridge Park and Ride mean the area has good public transport.

If the proposals go ahead, the City Council would look to build cycle storage for new residents on the site.

Next steps

Over the coming months the City Council will develop detailed proposals for the redevelopment of the site. This will include producing a series of studies, including a viability study to determine exactly how many social and family homes could be built on the site.

The City Council will need to demonstrate that the redevelopment will not have a negative impact on nearby properties, including in terms of flooding and ground contamination. Legally, housing developments cannot receive planning permission without proving this.

The City Council aims to carry out a formal consultation with local residents about the proposals in spring 2020. But City Council officers have already started meeting with local residents, including through the South Oxford Forum.

Local Plan

Originally, in the 2001 Local Plan, it was proposed that a new primary school could be built on the site. However, Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, has since said that a new school is not needed in the area.

With Oxford’s acute housing crisis, the City Council decided instead in 2013 to build new homes on the site.

Oxford is regularly listed as being the least affordable place to buy a house in the country. In February, Lloyds Bank found that average house price in Oxford are £460,184 – 12 times the average annual earnings in the city.

“We have a lot of work to do before these proposals are finalised, but, if we can prove they are viable, they would create desperately-needed new social housing within the city’s boundaries, and increase the play opportunities for children and access to nature around Bertie Place.

“We will carry out a full consultation with local residents over the coming months to ensure the development meets their needs and is in keeping with the local area.”

Councillor Mike Rowley, Cabinet Member for Affordable Housing