City Council launches consultation asking residents: What should Oxford look like in 2050?

Published: Monday, 6th November 2017

Driverless cars, robots in the home, 24-hour flexible working and augmented high streets. Oxford could look very different in the future.

And now Oxford City Council is leading a wide-ranging consultation to find out how Oxford residents and businesses want to see their city in 2050.                                                

Government forecasts suggest Oxford’s population will be 180,000 by 2040 and so there could be 190,000 living in the city by the middle of the century. That’s 18 per cent above the city’s current population of 161,000 people – and the City Council wants to start thinking now about how the city will operate.

The consultation launches today (6/11) on www.oxford2050.com and asks people for their thoughts on where they would like to see Oxford in 33 years – across five key themes that cover all aspects of life in the city.

The themes are:

  1. Oxford’s work and learning – your work, your business, the economy, education and the universities
  2. Oxford’s people and community – you, your family and your community
  3. Oxford’s built and natural environment – your home, your street, green spaces, buildings in the city and the climate
  4. Oxford’s transport and connectivity – your travel in and around the city
  5. Oxford’s culture and leisure – your enjoyment of the arts and leisure activities

For the next five weeks, Oxford’s residents and businesses will be asked for their views on each of these themes, and to decide which areas should be prioritised. For example, should most people be moving around the city in 2050 using autonomous pods, mass transit systems or perhaps bicycles?

This information will then be used to create a vision statement – called Oxford2050 – that will set out the aspirations for the city over the next decade.

The final Oxford2050 will be published in March 2018 as a living document on its own website. The aim is that this document will be agreed by residents, businesses, universities, charities, local authorities and other organisations across Oxford, so that the whole city is pulling together in one direction.

For the City Council, the vision statement will underpin future policy documents – including future Corporate Plans, which set out the City Council’s strategy and investments, and future Local Plans, which set out where housing, economic and leisure developments will take place across Oxford.

However the conversation will not stop, Oxford2050 will eventually become Oxford2060, rather than a single document that gathers dust.

The City Council is interested in hearing the thoughts everyone: It wants young people to consider how they want to see their city when they are older, and older people to consider how they want to hand over Oxford to their children or grandchildren.

With the median age of Oxford being 29.9 years (the youngest median age in England and Wales), more than half the city’s population in 2050 will not yet have been born.

Oxford has changed considerably in the last 33 years. In 1984, when Oxford’s population was about 115,000, buses could drive in both directions down Cornmarket Street, the Ice Rink was completed, and the Clarendon Centre was being constructed. A year earlier, the design for Gloucester Green was chosen (the work was carried out between 1987 and 1990).

While many other cities in the UK and internationally have created visions for 2050 and beyond, it is the first time Oxford has attempted to create such a long-term statement of intent. The City Council’s Corporate Plan currently covers four years, while its Local Plan covers 20 years.

Other cities in the UK have created similar long-term vision statements, including Edinburgh, Bristol and Milton Keynes.

Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “I joined Oxford City Council more than 30 years ago, when the first mobile phones weighed in at 10kg; Apple was launching the Mackintosh computer; and a science fiction writer coined the term ‘cyberspace’.

“Oxford has changed too. The Clarendon Centre opened in 1984, when buses could still travel – in both directions – down Cornmarket Street; while 1990 saw the opening of both Gloucester Green and Oxford Train Station, creating transport hubs to open Oxford to the rest of the country – and to the world.

“Looking forward another three decades, experts are already predicting huge changes to the way we live, work and travel: driverless cars, robots in the home and augmented high street are just some ideas. And Oxford will to change too – not least because the population will rise to around 190,000 people.

“Now we are creating a vision for Oxford in 2050. A statement of intent. A statement of where everyone who lives and works in Oxford today wants to see Oxford – our city – look in 2050: How homes, work, transport and facilities will look when our grandchildren will be adults – and when they will be asking the same question and considering how they want to hand over our city now to their grandchildren of tomorrow.

“We are the guardians of Oxford today, and handing over ‘that sweet city with her dreaming spires’ is a weighty responsibility. Oxford is important. Oxford is the home of the world’s greatest thinkers, the world’s greatest writers and the world’s future leaders. Oxford has a seat at the world’s table.

“But to keep us there tomorrow we need to work together today. We want you – residents, businesses, universities – to take part in the creation of this vision statement, so that everyone can use it as a marker to drive towards. So please take the time to consider how you want to see Oxford in 2050 – and take part in helping us all form Oxford2050.”

Dr Phil Clare, Head of Knowledge Exchange, University of Oxford, said: “Research from the University of Oxford will underpin many of the innovations which will change life in the next 30 years. We are already working with the City Council to ensure that this benefits Oxford citizens, for example through the Smart Oxford programme. Oxford 2050 is an excellent opportunity to develop a shared vision for the city which is dynamic and offers quality of life for everyone. To maintain our position as a globally leading university we must be part of a successful and sustainable city and we will continue to work with the City Council to play an active role in this process.”

Ian Green, Chairman of Oxford Civic Society, said: "Developing a vision for the city is a good thing and we support the way this is being done – in getting as many views as possible from across the city.

"It's impossible to project 30 years ahead but what we have to do is say how the city might appear, and set out some principles, and then adapt when new information comes in.

"The university has some of the greatest thinkers in the world when it comes to the future of cities and urban planning and we don't seem to get the oomph we really need from them. To hear they are supporting this is really exciting news."

To have your say on what Oxford should look like in 2050, visit: www.oxford2050.com.