Winter changes for Oxfordshire
Although it’s actually quite cold with grey skies here at the moment, the sun has shone on Oxfordshire this month (at least metaphorically).
Four significant pieces of news (five if you include the Stamp Duty reforms) followed one after the other in the space of 48 hours. I say significant, because they have a fundamental affect, not only on those of us who live and work in Oxfordshire but also to those thinking of investing in property or indeed starting up a business in the area.
Bicester – the next ‘Garden City’
Arguably the most eye catching news was the announcement that Bicester has been chosen by the government as the site for a new ‘garden city’. In theory, up to 13000 homes are due to be built on the edge of the town, as part of the coalition’s plans to help deal with the UK’s housing shortage. Bicester is expected to get a new rail station to serve the expanded population as part of the plans. This follows the news that Ebbsfleet in Kent will be the first modern garden city with 15,000 new homes.
Not wishing to ‘impose any definition of what garden cities are’ the government said ‘it would include features such as: quality design, gardens, accessible green space near homes and access to employment and local amenities’. Is this another Milton Keynes? Well, seemingly the subtle difference being that it is a ‘large development’ but not a ‘New Town’.
A34 – £50m investment
Journeys around Oxford will be improved through a £50m of investment in the A34, the Department for Transport announced this week. What seems to be almost a ‘re-announcement’, the news also included that there will be improvements at Peartree and Botley interchanges and work will shortly begin to prevent flooding on a stretch of the A34 between Chilton and the A4130 Milton Interchange. Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, described it as “a real breakthrough in tackling congestion”. Let’s hope she’s right! “Thousands of my constituents are affected by traffic misery on the A34 on a daily basis yet there has been no major investment for over two decades.”
Westgate Centre development
A £500m long-standing plan to rebuild Oxford’s Westgate Centre has finally been approved. Plans to redevelop the 1973-built shopping centre and adjacent land have been kicking around since the late eighties but various setbacks including one fairly severe recession have delayed progress.
Work can now start on the 14-acre (5.7 hectare) site which will include about 100 new shops and 122 homes as well as a cinema, eateries and a basement car park. This exciting news will create more than 3,400 new jobs as well as 600 jobs a year during construction with work expected to be completed by 2017.
The end of flooding in Oxford?
A £42m flood alleviation scheme in Oxford was announced as part of the more than 1,400 flood defence projects which are to receive government funding to protect 300,000 homes. The £2.3bn investment, which is not new money, will help prevent £30bn worth of damage in areas. The new flood defence scheme in Oxford, just one of 162 schemes in the ThamesValley, got the green light and will protect over 3,000 homes. The Oxford Western Conveyance Flood Channel will reduce the risk to 1,200 properties. Now the only question left to ask is: where will all the flood water go now? Good question.
Stamp duty reforms
The unexpected news came as the Chancellor delivered his Autumn Statement. Under the old rules you would have paid tax at a single rate on the entire property price. Now you will only pay the rate of tax on the part of the property price within each tax band – like income tax. This link will explain the reform in more detail: http://www.finders.co.uk/news/
As someone who has spent his life in Oxfordshire, it is pleasing to a point to see that at least there is something actually happening towards improving the roads, rail and flooding (infrastructure issues), to create more housing (although not in the City itself which is still at crisis point) and to update Oxford’s amenities. I’m not a huge advocate of shopping, but let’s face it the Oxford shopping experience hasn’t been anywhere near competitive recently so any development is great news.