Oxford2050: What should Oxford’s built and natural environment look like in 2050?

Published: Tuesday, 21st November 2017

How can we make best use of Oxford’s limited space over the next three decades to improve the city’s built and natural environment in 2050?

What will the home of the future look like? And how will climate change affect us? These are questions Oxford City Council is asking residents and businesses during this week’s Oxford2050 consultation.

Few cities in the world can boast such magnificent buildings as Oxford. The city has more than twice the national average of Grade I and Grade II-listed buildings, which span every major period of British architecture since the 11th century.

And the city is booming, with the number of people wanting to live and work in Oxford increasing. PwC recently named Oxford as the top city in the UK for economic wellbeing, based on job creation, skills, wage levels and personal health.

But, with extremely limited space to build new homes, businesses and shops within the city’s boundaries, Oxford has become the least affordable place to live in the UK. ‘Urban extensions’ are already planned to the north and the west of the city to help address Oxford’s housing needs. But, by 2050 the city’s population is expected to have reached about 190,000 people – and so what will Oxford look like then? Will we have been able to deliver enough new homes to make living in Oxford affordable for everyone in its growing economy?

We can be pretty sure that homes and businesses will look very different in 2050. Robots, sensors and augmented reality could mean that furniture adapts to the shape of your body, while new buildings themselves could be modular and built and rebuilt with the help of robots. We should also be sustainably producing a significant proportion of our energy and food needs locally and minimising our use of water and production of waste.

The impact of climate change will also be felt by 2050. Ocean levels are predicted to rise and this will have a knock-on effect on weather patterns. In Oxford, the most pronounced impact is likely to be on the risk of flooding, with the city centre lying between the Cherwell and Thames rivers.

Linked, in part, to climate change - biodiversity may be under threat in the UK and globally, with increased extinctions by 2050. What can we do to conserve the rich biodiversity and the green spaces in and around our city for people to enjoy?  One area which should certainly have improved will be air quality. Oxford’s air will be a lot cleaner following the Government’s ban on the sale of diesel and petrol cars in 2040.

Earlier this month, Oxford City Council launched the Oxford2050 consultation to find out what residents and businesses in Oxford think their city should look like in 2050. The aim is to create a single document that sets out everyone’s aspirations for Oxford, so that the whole community can work towards one goal.

Councillor Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “A decent home is a basic human right. By 2050 Oxford should aim to provide homes to rent or buy at prices that genuinely meet the needs of our citizens at every income level. The city’s older housing stock will need to be retro-fitted to use less energy and to retain heat; and there will need to be a larger stock of homes that are available at social rents levels.

“As there will be more elderly people in the city, we should be aiming to bring all new homes up to a lifetime standard and have good support for conversions and adaptations so that older residents are enable to stay in their  own homes for as long as they wish. New housing developments and all the older parts of the city will have well designed green spaces and play areas nearby retaining the blend of built and natural space which is such an important feature of the city. I hope that we can ensure that homes built outside the city boundary for people working in Oxford are well connected to the city through accessible public transport and cycle routes.”

Dr Barbara Hammond MBE, CEO Oxford Low Carbon Hub, said: “If we want clean air, secure energy, healthy homes and a healthy economy, Oxford must lead the transition to a low carbon economy by 2050.  By then, we will all be using a lot less energy to run our lives.  We will live in new houses that need no heating or we will live in an old house that has been transformed to need very little heat.  As a result, everyone, particularly our old people, will be healthier while spending a lot less of their income on paying their energy bill.

“Everyone will be part of a local energy community, selling energy in to local smartgrids from our renewable energy installations or from the energy stored in the batteries of our electric cars, and buying energy when we need it.  We will even be able to sell our surplus renewable energy directly to our neighbours.  We will be rewarded for using less energy in times of high demand so that we make the best use of locally-produced energy and use expensive energy from the National Grid as little as possible.”

Hannah Fenton, Manager, Good Food Oxford, said: “By 2050 in Oxford, everyone will be able to eat well every day, because we will be growing a substantial amount of our food within our urban environment, making for a greener city with better air quality. We will have edible hedgerows, plenty of fruit and nut trees, and vertical farming going up the sides of our buildings.

“We will be surrounded by productive farmland, with food transported fresh from the farm gate to our homes in the most convenient possible way, using drone technology. More of us will work on the land, but it won’t be back-breaking work because we will be assisted by the best technology. We will work with the health of the soil and biodiversity at the forefront of our minds, and have made commitments to high animal welfare. Some treats will be imported, Fairtrade, from further afield – but they will be rather more expensive and anyway our local produce will be tastier.

“Municipal kitchens, where people can cook and eat together, will make a comeback so anyone can get a cheap, nutritious meal three times a day, fostering community spirit and a vibrant food culture.”

Each week during the five-week consultation people will be asked for their views on an aspect of life in the city, ranging from transport and housing, to the economy and culture.

For more information, and to take part in the consultation, residents and businesses in Oxford can visit: www.oxford2050.com.