Forming an integral part of West Oxfordshire District Council’s sustainable strategy to deliver much-needed new homes in the local area.

The Garden Village is a key piece in West Oxfordshire District Council’s (WODC) Local Plan, which sets out the council’s vision for the District in 2031 and provides an overarching framework to guide and deliver that vision. A crucial part of this process is to identify appropriate sites for new homes to support a growing population and support the economy. To secure sites in a Local Plan, the local authority must prove that the sites selected are sufficient to accommodate the quantum of homes required to meet demand, are in appropriate locations that are sustainable in the long run and, crucially, are deliverable.

With this in mind, WODC submitted a Local Plan that set out how to deliver 13,200 homes across the district by 2031, which included a combination of expanding existing urban areas and delivering a new garden village – Oxfordshire Garden Village. By focussing development around existing urban areas and purpose-built new developments, WODC were able to insulate rural villages from being required to accommodate a large number of new homes, which could have an impact on their heritage and unique character.

At the same time, the government issued a call for garden villages across the UK. In January 2017, the Oxfordshire Garden Village was endorsed as one of the initial fourteen garden villages.

The search for the Garden Village site

The search for the right site to accommodate a new garden village in West Oxfordshire was informed by conversations with local landowners and stakeholders, as well as independent studies, including a ‘spatial options assessment’ undertaken by consultants LUC. As part of this process a large parcel of land to the north of the A40 opposite the village of Eynsham was submitted to WODC for consideration.

Overall, the LUC report considered 36 different options across Oxfordshire, including sites at West Eynsham, Witney and Barnard Gate, and considered various issues, such as the green belt, sustainable connections, social and economic considerations (e.g. access to schools and jobs), environmental issues (such as flood risk, biodiversity, landscape and heritage) and deliverability.

LUC concluded that the site opposite Eynsham was the preferred option on the basis of the following four key factors.

The site is outside the Green Belt and relatively unconstrained in physical and policy terms.

The site is in close proximity to Oxford City and has good access.

The site will benefit from committed investment into the A40, including new park & ride and bus lane.

The site is deliverable due to a strong landowner willingness and partnership.

Government and local policy endorsement

In 2016 WODC included the site in their published main modifications to the Local Plan and concurrently submitted an expression of interest to the Government in response to their call for new Garden Villages across England. In January 2017, the Government announced endorsement of and funding for the Oxfordshire Garden Village pending conclusion of the local plan process.

The current Local Plan (2011-2031) was adopted in September 2018 following independent examination which concluded that the plan was fit for purpose. This allocates the Garden Village site under Policy EW1a.

In delivering the Garden Village, WODC have set out in the Local Plan and subsequently in an Area Action Plan (AAP) its aspiration for a free-standing exemplar garden village. The policies in the Local Plan and AAP are based on a ‘working assumption’ of about 2,200 homes together with about 40 hectares of business land in the form of a ‘campus-style’ science park providing long-term employment capacity up to and beyond 2031.

The policies require the Garden Village to be in accordance with the key garden village principles and include specific elements, including the provision of a new Park and Ride site (1,000 spaces) along with associated bus priority, provision of up to two primary schools and essential supporting transport infrastructure.

Eynsham Neighbourhood Plan 2018 – 2031

Eynsham Parish Council published a new Eynsham Neighbourhood Plan (ENP) in December 2018, covering the period up to 2031, and the Plan is currently under examination by a Planning Inspector.

The ENP’s ambitions for the Garden Village are:

Apply Garden Village principles throughout the process and to inform Masterplan.

Connect & integrate with Eynsham, including crossings that facilitate pedestrians and cyclists.

Consider the opportunity for a new cemetery.

Reflect the importance of the A40 as a key transport link, improvements should minimise delays.

Ensure timely provision of new social infrastructure to support the delivery of new homes.

Provide appropriate employment opportunities to minimise the need to commute to work.

Deliver a wide choice of house types and tenures, including housing for the elderly and disabled.

Take account of important biodiversity assets and achieve significant bio-diversity gain.