Oxfordshire should be ambitious like Cambridgeshire. Reports, such as the Oxfordshire Innovation Engine – Realising the Growth Potential, say that businesses – especially those in science and knowledge-based fields – want to set up in central Oxfordshire, says Peter Thompson, chairman of Oxford Civic Society.

But it will need world class transport links, housing, schooling and other infrastructure to match those world class businesses.

Wonderful as the views of the dreaming spires are, no one wants to be forced to admire them from a traffic jam on the A34.


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This poses a challenge to the county council and all five district councils.

The opportunities are for central Oxfordshire, not just or even primarily for Oxford city.

Cambridgeshire has found a way of getting councils of different political persuasions to work together.

Oxfordshire must do likewise.

Cambridgeshire has a quality charter and a panel of experts.

The charter sets out to potential developers what is expected of them to secure planning permission.

Oxford city has a design review panel and that has made input to the recent work on Northern Gateway, but a pan-Oxfordshire equivalent is missing. The Oxford Futures report published by the Oxford Civic Society in April 2014 calls for a quality review panel, a development forum and an Oxford futures commission.

Structures like this enable Cambridgeshire to articulate a vision for what good development might look like.

This opens a dialogue with landowners and developers on what they need to provide or fund, and what needs to be funded by local or central government.

Oxfordshire should do likewise.

Lacking a coherent vision, the risk is that we will simply focus on the damage that poor development could inflict: loss of Green Belt, congestion, unaffordable house prices and so on. Oxfordshire should not rely on its competitors here and overseas doing likewise.

It’s true that Oxford has lost more Boat Races than Cambridge, with Oxford winning 78 to Cambridge’s 81, but our aim should not to become like somewhere else, says Oxford city councillor David Henwood.

Cities need to have their own identity and their own way of doing things and we need to have a good relationship with other cities to come together and work with them.

Oxford is a great city. I think it is because we have a real working class population in Oxford that lives closely with an academic population, with our service industry, with everyone.

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It is the melting pot of cultures that makes us a great city. Our city covers such a small area that we can walk from one end to the other quite easily.

We have a good sense of community that I feel Cambridge does not have because it is spread over such a large area.

We are a very progressive city and we have always put ourselves in competition in Cambridge.

But we have learned to have our rivalry in a friendly manner, as opposed to having Cambridge as an enemy.

We need Cambridge. As much as we hate to admit it, we need that competition and the rivalry that comes with trying to be the best.

We need a rival to punch, tease and compete against. But that rivalry comes from being different. I think we should work with other cities, but we should celebrate who and what we are.

We should cherry pick the attributes of other cities that work and use them to make our own better, but we should not just copy somewhere else, whether it is Cambridge, Birmingham or London.