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Census: City is bursting at the seams
Housing, jobs, schools and social care are all under pressure as new statistics reveal how Oxford's population has soared.
Figures from the 2011 Census released last week showed that Oxford had grown much faster than the other council districts in the county, with a 12 per cent increase in population, from 135,509 in 2001 to 151,900 last year.
They also showed the city had seen a huge rise in the number of children under four, jumping by 39.6 per cent, from just over 6,500 in 2001 to 9,200 in 2011.
The population of the county as a whole rose roughly in line with the national average, up by 7.7 per cent, from 607,277 to 653,800 over the decade, with the proportion of under-fours living in Oxfordshire rising by just under 15 per cent from 35,835 to 41,100.
Oxford City Council leader Bob Price put the changes down to a high rate of immigration and a strong economy in comparison to other areas across the country.
He said: “We’re not talking about refugees but economic migrants, from Eastern Europe in particular, because the economy has been buoyant in sectors like hotels and restaurants.
“We have had a lot of developments in the universities and the hospitals and recently in areas like construction.
He added: “Public sector employment has grown very substantially in the past decade.”
But he said the physical limits of the city would constrain growth of the same scale over the next decade as there simply was not enough housing to sustain a similar rate of expansion.
He said: “We might expect it to grow by another 5,000 or 6,000 people in that period but not 10 per cent of growth.
“We have a dynamic centre for population and employment growth and we need to foster that and create a situation that can be positive, rather than a set of problems.”
The growing number of young children has put huge pressure on places at primary schools in Oxford, as mum-of-two Hailey Munt, from Cowley, has found to her cost.
She faces the prospect of moving out of the city to Wheatley after her son, Charlie Berry, three, was offered a place at a school in the village from September, rather than at one of the three primaries closest to her in Oxford.
Miss Munt, who also has a 14-month-old daughter Joyce, said: “Two of the mums at the nursery are having the same problems and are keeping their kids in nursery for an extra six months.
“If there are so many more children, I think more parents will be where we are now – we need more schools.”
At the other end of the scale, there are now 5,200 people over the age of 90 in the county, an increase of 35.8 per cent since the 2001 census – putting more pressure on social services and the NHS.
One of them is Bill Buckingham, 91, of Rose Hill, a long-serving city councillor and former Lord Mayor of Oxford.
He said: “There isn’t any pleasure in getting older, unless you’re one of the lucky ones that is fit.
“It’s worrying, because the more there are of us, the more care homes we need and all the rest of it.
“One has to face the fact we do become a burden.”
The biggest growth in nonagenarians in Oxfordshire came in the Vale of the White Horse, where there was an increase of more than 52 per cent, from 722 in 2001 to 1,100 in March last year when the census was carried out.