Oxford City Council yesterday resolved to approve a hybrid application for the Oxford North scheme which forms part of the wider Northern Gateway project proposed for an area of farmland just inside the city’s ring road at Wolvercote.
According to a planning report, the site forms "the most part" of the Northern Gateway which is allocated in the council’s core strategy and has its own area action plan (AAP).
It said that the Northern Gateway "is a key strategic site which has been allocated in the core strategy for 90,000 square metres of employment space for the knowledge economy – science and technology, research, bio-technology and spin-off companies from universities and hospitals."
The site allocation also includes "up to 500 housing units and other related uses that would support the employment use," the report said.
The application sought outline consent for the erection of up to 87,300 square metres of employment space, up to 550 square metres of community space, up to 2,500 square metres retail and food uses, a hotel, up to 480 homes and landscaping and associated infrastructure works.
Full permission was sought for the first phase of the scheme including 5,850 square metres of employment space, access, open space, landscaping and drainage.
The report advised that the application had proposed to deliver a non-policy compliant 35 per cent affordable housing rate. Local planning policy stipulates that a 50 per cent affordable housing rate should be a "starting point" for such schemes, the document said.
However, it said that the findings of a viability assessment supported the officer recommendation to approve the application with a level of affordable housing at 35 per cent.
It advised that a review mechanism would be included in the permission with a view to increasing the affordable housing rate if "values have increased more than costs".
Recommending approval, the report said that the "urgent need for more homes and the constrained supply in Oxford is well documented and understood; therefore this contribution on an employment-led development would be significant in addressing the shortfall in housing and of clear social benefit."
It also advised that sustainable transport benefits that the development would bring would include "hugely improved cycle and bus infrastructure on transformed stretches of the A40 and A44 within the application site."