Controversial plans to create a major new science and innovation district at Begbroke Science Park are moving ahead.

The first phase is intended to add additional research and innovation facilities and support the creation of new high value, highly skilled jobs. 

It will include new teaching facilities for Oxford University’s Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences departments, as well as providing space to incubate spin-out companies.

In phase one, two new buildings will be constructed, providing up to 12,500m of high-quality lab and office space.

One will be reserved for university use while the other will be leased to commercial tenants – the university is already in discussions with organisations potentially interested in renting space.

This is the first stage in the university’s long-term aspiration to develop a new innovation district around Begbroke Science Park, as set out in its Strategic Plan for 2018-23.

Future phases will develop 2,000 new homes with a mix of affordable properties and subsidised key worker accommodation. 

The wider masterplan is to create a ‘live/study/work’ environment with a hotel, restaurant, bars, cafes, shops, educational, community and sports facilities.

The new Begbroke innovation district forms part of the University’s £4bn development partnership with Legal and General and is being advanced by Oxford University Development Ltd (OUD), a joint venture company set up by the two partners.

The next stage is finalising the planning consent for phase one.

The University already has outline planning permission to build on the existing site so only a ‘reserved matters’ application covering areas not dealt with in the original outline planning permission is needed.

OUD intends to submit this application later this year and to receive planning consent in early 2022, enabling work to begin on site later that year with completion targeted for early 2024.

Dr David Prout, Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Oxford, said: “We are delighted that this project is going ahead as part of our JV partnership with Legal and General. 

"It will provide much needed expansion space for academic research and also for University spinouts and commercial collaborators.  It will double the amount of space in the Science Park and form the first phase of a larger commercial, academic and residential development.”

But the news was met with anger from local district councillor Ian Middleton.

The Green Party councillor said: “Yarnton and Begbroke will essentially become a new university campus.

"The council have ignored the pleas of local residents, councillors and campaign groups.  They ignored the concerns of everyone in this area and ploughed on regardless.

"They have cheerfully thrown the people of Yarnton, Begbroke, Kidlington, Gosford and Water Eaton under the bus."

There are plans for 4,400 homes across the countryside just north of Oxford on what was previously Green Belt land.

Several sites around Yarnton, Kidlington and Begbroke have been allocated for house building by Cherwell District Council after a partial review of the Local Plan was adopted at the end of 2020.

The new homes are aimed at tackling the housing crisis in Oxford, but campaigners the Cherwell Development Watch Alliance contests that the number of homes is much more than is needed for Oxford's growing population. 

A High Court hearing took place on June 23 and 24, with the CDWA facing off against Cherwell District Council, the Government's Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, as well as Oxford University and some of its constituent colleges, which are the owners of the land.

The judgment is pending.

Suzanne McIvor, chair of CDWA, said: “The 2,000 homes are in the partial review. They are designed for Oxford’s unmet housing needs. All of those homes are going on the Green Belt, every single one. The land at Begbroke was released from the Green Belt.”

She added: “We were aware of the £4billion funding from Legal and General and we were aware, but very few other people are, that 1,000 homes at Begbroke are to be retained by the university.

“Cherwell District Council went through the normal consultation process but didn’t listen to anybody."

Cllr Middleton said: “The removal of this land from green belt protection was all done under the auspices of the district providing development land to deal with Oxford's so called 'un-met need'.

"In fact allowing it to expand will simply make the need for housing worse.  And none of this housing will be for the local people who are having their rural landscape decimated to provide this investment opportunity."

A spokesman for Oxford University said: ‘The Legal and General announcement relates to the funding of two new scientific buildings that already have planning permission. 

“With regard to wider developments, we are awaiting the outcome of the Judicial Review of the greenbelt designations.’

A spokesperson for Cherwell District Council said: “The Plan [partial review] was extensively consulted on and was the subject of public hearings in 2018 and 2019 where the views of organisations and members of the public were considered. 

“An independently-appointed Government planning inspector concluded his examination by issuing his final report on 6 August 2020.

"He found the Plan with his recommended modifications to be legally sound.”