OXFORD versus Oxfordshire has been a long-drawn out battle, but the winner is yet to be made clear.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the city’s desire to expand has been tempered by surrounding districts’ resistance to stop it dominating the county, according to historian William Whyte.

Dr Whyte, a professor of social and architectural history at Oxford University, said: “Oxford City Council has always tried to expand beyond the city boundaries and into the green belt.

“In the first half of the 20th century they managed to do that by absorbing the likes of Cowley, which was a separate jurisdiction, but this was firmly resisted by the likes of Vale of White Horse District Council and Cherwell District Council in the second half.

Oxfordshire County Council has worried about what will happen to the distinctive character of Oxfordshire if it expands too much.

“So in the 1940s and 1970s there was deliberate encouragement to grow these other towns as alternative urban centres in Banbury, Didcot, Witney and Bicester.

“It means the economy in the county doesn’t become unbalanced.”

Between 1921 and 1951, the population of Oxford increased by 73 per cent from 57,000 to roughly 98,000.

Nationally the figure was 17 per cent.

The city’s current population is 150,000, while there are about 650,000 people living in the county.

Dr Whyte said: “It was a major boom town in that period due to its car production.

“Whether uncontrolled expansion would create an urbanised Oxfordshire is an open question but we are yet to see which side will win.”

The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), published in March, recommends that 100,000 homes are built in the county by 2031.

Oxford Mail:

County council leader Ian Hudspeth

County council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “In 100 years’ time I don’t expect Oxfordshire to be one big city.

“I do expect growth and for towns to be expanded. However, it will be done in an apportionate way and allow green space, because one of the beauties in Oxfordshire is the green space and the beautiful areas we have.

“It’s an ideal and central place to live in the country with good links to other areas.

“We’re an hour away from London, Birmingham, Bristol and the southern ports.

“We’re going to have fantastic rail links as the only place outside of London where the north to south railway will cross with the east to west, while there’s also good motorway links.

“There’s potential to grow around some strategic sites and around towns but I don’t think there will be coalescence of all the towns and villages.”

GARDEN cities have been proposed as a way of meeting Oxfordshire’s housing need.

Planning consultant Ken Dijksman has proposed a 25,000-home town on land between Abingdon, East Hanney and Steventon.

And Nicholas Falk, director of URBED urban design firm, won the £250,000 Wolfson Prize this month for his scheme to turn Oxford into a garden city, with three planned urban extensions to the north, east and south of the city.

Another Wolfson entry by urban design firm Wei Yang & Partners recommended an “arc of opportunity” for building garden cities between Southampton and Folkstone, including half of Oxfordshire.


AT THE start of the 20th century, Carterton was just a twinkle in the eye of developer William Carter. He bought the 740-acre Rock Farm, which included a large farm house, six cottages and two barns, for £8,800 – or £12 per acre – in 1900.

Mr Carter, the son of a master builder who believed every man should own at least one acre of land, divided the farm into 341 plots and sold them on for £20 per acre, or £100 with a small house.
The estate eventually grew into a village, named Carterton after its founder, then a town, now with a population approaching 16,000.

Oxford Mail:

William Carter

This could grow to more than 20,000, with plans for a total of 2,000 homes either approved or awaiting decision by West Oxfordshire District Council.Alongside its development was the opening of RAF Brize Norton in 1937, growing into the RAF’s largest base.

Swinbrook Road resident George Fox, 77, moved to Carterton in 1965, just before the United States Air Force – which had been stationed there since 1953 – moved out. Mr Fox, a former town mayor and governor at Gateway Primary School, said: “The population would have been about 6,000 at the time but it’s almost trebled now.

“There were some small shops but there wasn’t anything like the Morrisons or Aldi that we have now.

“At one time it was the sort of place where you could go into town and would always meet someone you know.

“There was a community spirit but the trouble is now that some of the houses being built aren’t directly connected to Carterton, like in Shilton Park, so it feels almost like an add-on.”

Grandfather-of-three Mr Fox, a former telecommunications engineer who worked at the RAF base, said it is a major part of the town but can mean there is a constant turnover in the community.

He said: “At the schools you would have pupils who would be there for maybe one or two years and then leave. They would then be replaced but not necessarily with children the same age so there’s always a fluctuation.

“But there’s a very good relationship between the RAF and civilian population.”


JUST over 60 years ago, Botley was a village in its own right but now it is a major suburb of Oxford.
The proposed £100m West Way shopping centre redevelopment is recognition of its wider importance within the city, but opposition from residents illustrates a desire to retain heritage.

Crabtree Road resident Chris Church, co-chairman of campaign group West Way Community Concern, believes it could damage the sense of community provided by independent traders at Elms Parade.

Oxford Mail:

Chris Church

He said: “At the moment people feel Botley retains a very village-like feel.

“There are about a dozen independent shops at Elms Parade. People like going to their local butchers, barbers and florist, and bumping into people they know.”

Mr Church said Botley was formerly a hamlet with several residential streets behind Elms Parade.

Major development started in the 1950s, with Oxford already expanding in its direction, and it eventually became the city suburb it is today.

Oxford Mail:

 Elms Parade in 1956

It was part of Berkshire until the 1970s and remains in the Vale of White Horse district, just outside Oxford.

Mr Church said: “There’s a split in how people feel about it – some would like Botley to be more a part of Oxford but there are others who like it to be separate.

“There’s an idea that Botley is full of older people but in fact there’s a huge number of young families coming in.”


DIDCOT’S population could hit the 30,000 mark in the next two years, with the railway at the centre of its growth.

Until Didcot Parkway railway station, as it is now known, was opened in the 1840s, connecting it to London, it had a population of only a few hundred people.

Oxford Mail:

Jeanette Howse

Its transport links have helped to sustain growth and South Oxfordshire District Council has earmarked 9,000 homes to be built there in the next 25 years.

Jeanette Howse, a former Didcot Chamber of Commerce president who worked at Didcot Railway Centre as a marketing executive for 25 years, said: “It was basically a railway town so the Prince of Wales and Great Western pubs were there to support the railway workers.

“There were some houses in Station Lane for staff but other than that it was just farmland and open countryside.

“Everything just grew around the railway station and they started building shops and schools for the workers. People came here so they could get to London by train but live in the countryside and new houses were built to support them.”

The town’s limits have now swallowed up surrounding villages, including Milton, Harwell and East Hagbourne, through industrial developments like Didcot Power Station, Milton Park and the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.

It has also led to more amenities in the town like the Orchard shopping centre, Cornerstone arts centre and Cineworld.

Mrs Howse, who lives in nearby East Hanney, said: “I think a lot of people like the growth of Didcot because when you get growth you get new things and opportunities.

“It’s a vibrant place but I don’t think there’s as much of a community feel because it has grown so much.”

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