Published: Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Oxford City Council has released the results of an independent feasibility study showing that the brownfield site at Redbridge Paddock can be used for housing development.

The 8.9 acre site opposite Redbridge Park and Ride is earmarked for development in the Oxford Local Plan 2036 and was used for landfill in the 1960s and 1970s. The council hopes to build more than 200 new homes – including vital council homes – on the site and detailed site investigations are now underway to determine precisely what can be built at Redbridge Paddock.

Oxford has only a few big development sites left within its boundaries and this will be the largest housing development in the city after Barton Park, which will have 885 homes when completed. Development will be carried out by the council’s housing company, Oxford City Housing Ltd (OCHL).

The redevelopment of former landfill sites and brownfield land is increasingly common in the UK as pressure for land increases, and such developments typically present environmental, engineering and design challenges. The feasibility study outlines how these could be mitigated and was carried out for the council by Arcadis, a leading global natural and built asset design and consultancy firm.

Made ground is land where natural and undisturbed soils have been replaced by man-made materials such as landfill, and can require solutions for issues like ground quality and contamination in order to bring a site back into beneficial use.

The study found that the made ground at Redbridge Paddock reached up to 6.6 metres deep in parts of the site that were surveyed. This has implications for the design of foundations, and piling into the Oxford Clay Member is likely to be needed for multi-storey apartments. The presence of contaminants like arsenic, mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), together with some asbestos, will require further testing and a pathway break – a physical barrier giving a clean cover, such as a thick layer of clean topsoil.

The sinking and settling of soil on former landfill sites is a common issue, although a significant amount of this takes place within the first five years of a site’s closure. This can include the leaching of fluid – known as leachate – into groundwater and watercourses in the surrounding area. There will need to be a detailed assessment of the potential impact of leachate and consideration of foundation design needs and ground improvement measures like compaction.

Results of initial ground gas tests and the site’s former use as landfill will also require gas protection measures to mitigate the release of carbon dioxide and methane. These measures could include under-building ventilation encouraging airflow away from homes and the use of gas-resistant membranes during construction.

“The independent feasibility study by Arcadis shows that Redbridge Paddock can be used for development, which is very welcome as we hope to build more than 200 desperately needed new homes on the site.

“Like all brownfield and former landfill sites Redbridge Paddock presents challenges to ensure safe development, and this is something we have plenty experience of doing in the UK. We need to undertake more detailed assessments to inform specific elements of the development and mitigate the environmental, engineering and design challenges posed at this site.”  

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Delivery 

Oxford needs homes

Oxford needs homes as it is regularly cited as the least affordable place for housing in the country.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2019 the median house price was £395,000 – 12.55 times median gross earnings (£31,472) in the city. For England as a whole, the median house price is 7.83 times median earnings. The cost of housing in Oxford puts home ownership out of the reach of people in occupations like teaching, nursing, transport and retail.

Half (49.3%) of homes in Oxford are now in the private rented sector, where the ONS reports a median private rent of £1,500 a month for a three-bedroom home. The equivalent amount for England as a whole is £795. Meanwhile, there are currently 2,355 households on the council’s housing waiting list.

Over the next 10 years OCHL aims to build 1,891 new homes on top of the 354 homes being built at Barton Park. Of these, 1,125 will be council homes providing the genuinely affordable housing that Oxford needs. A further 301 homes will be in other affordable tenures like shared ownership.

The council set up OCHL in response to Oxford’s need for homes. The main aims of the housing company are to increase the supply of new housing and council homes, and to provide a financial return to the council to help protect frontline services.

OCHL is currently building new homes for sale and social rent across Oxford, including:

  • two sites in Rose Hill
  • Bracegirdle Road, Mortimer Drive and Broad Oak
  • Between Towns Road
  • Elsfield Way and Cumberlege Close
  • Edgecombe Road
  • Harts Close in Kidlington

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