Council and developer respond to local concern about Oxford North development

Oxford North aerial view looking towards the City centre[4]

Thomas White Oxford, (TWO) the company owned by St John’s College Oxford which is developing a new business area to the north of Oxford City Centre, has responded to claims from residents from nearby Wolvercote that demand no longer exists for out of town office and retail units.

Oxford North will be a new business community for Oxford, providing around 4,500 new jobs, 480 new homes, shops, bars and restaurants, a hotel, around 23 acres of open spaces including three new parks, and significant investment into the walking, cycling, bus and highway networks. The company behind the project says that Oxford North will contribute around £150 million per year added in GVA to the economy.

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In a written response to address local concerns, Professor Andrew Parker on behalf of St John’s College, said: “… we have carried out, and continue to carry out, extensive market research into the current and future demand for such office and laboratory buildings.

“Based on this research, we know that our future customers/occupiers will be from the following sectors: Life sciences and biotech: research companies, research institutions, teaching laboratory and clinical diagnostic laboratories; Technology: product, service, machinery and tool innovators including battery development, Artificial Intelligence, health tech, data science and software/web development; Government: health services, local authorities and departments; Foundations: purely as an example, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“We are aware of companies that have been looking to Oxford for a number of years but for whatever reason, have not been able to establish themselves.”

Oxford City Council also put out a statement: “In 2015, Oxford City Council approved an Area Action Plan which sets the principle of development in the Oxford North area, formerly called the Northern Gateway. This recognised that it is a strategic site identified in the Local Plan for the development of employment space and housing, including affordable housing.

The main landowner, Thomas White Oxford (TWO), brought forward proposals for a mixed development and in December 2019 Oxford City Council’s Planning Applications Committee made a resolution to grant planning permission. This was subject to a review mechanism that would enable the minimum 35% affordable housing (the equivalent of 168 homes, of which 80% will be for social rent, and 20% for shared ownership) to be increased to up to 50% affordable housing if the economics of the project justify this. It was also subject to determining an appropriate level of developer contributions to mitigate the impact of the development on the local community and infrastructure – known as a Section 106 agreement.

Oxford City Council is now in the final stages of settling the Section 106 agreement with Thomas White Oxford, which we hope to conclude in the coming weeks. This will then allow the Council to grant planning permission for the scheme.