Property consultant Frank Webster reflects on a working life in Oxford and the uncertain future of the city.

IT’S rather cliched, but it is not until you are wiser and older that you fully appreciate the world you live in and in particular your own town or city.

I moved to Oxford in the mid 60s. My father’s work as a police officer required flexibility and we relocated from Bicester.

My first experience of working in Oxford was in Selfridges, the large apartment store in the then newly built original Westgate Centre.

I moved on, now in my late teens, to work as a trainee estate agent for Vernon & Son in The High.

I was literally in the heart of the city and university, but did I appreciate or even take in any of the magnificence of the architecture or the wealth of history where I was working? No, not really.

I recall what a pain it was to get into Oxford from Cumnor where we then lived, but once inside I certainly didn’t look up or take notice nor have a real clue as to the wealth of history or what was really going on in Oxford.

Wind forward many years, my working life has been spent in the Oxford property industry – initially selling property but mainly helping grow, arguably, one of Oxfordshire’s most successful property companies Finders Keepers.

Networking became natural for me and meant opportunities to visit the ‘inner sanctum’ of the colleges and the university, as well as attending launches and receptions held in many of Oxford’s newest buildings.

I look back now and realise I was going around with my eyes closed in my early days: now I have, if anything, an increasing desire to learn more about the city and county that has been home for the past 50 years.

I’ve just spent a day showing seven Australian estate agents from Melbourne around the city and the colleges. They were of course literally dumbstruck by the ‘dreaming spires’ and everything that is Oxford.

They sent an email after returning to Australia saying that Oxford was the highlight of their trip.

Having have made it my business to know what’s happening in our city and county, I am now able to see and understand why Oxford(shire) is leading the world – from biotech and space research to publishing, medical advances, autonomous cars and a genuine wish by business for proper corporate social responsibility.

In fact, there are so many amazing things going on in our county that due to lack of foresight we now can’t provide sufficient housing to meet the demand to live and work here.

Our children remain ‘nesting’ with us far longer and will take far longer to become homeowners, if at all.

We’re now arguing about lifting height and green belt planning restrictions and negotiating with our council neighbours to build on their land for the city’s unmet need.

Our infrastructure is not fit for purpose with traffic congestion and over-subscribed schools and add to this we’re having to contend with the madness of Brexit.

Particularly now, as Brexit lumbers along, both Oxfordshire and Oxford have so much to gain, but oh so much to lose.

As I listen to the news, I worry how it will all turn out for our amazing city and county.

That said, I take heart that history shows us that Oxford is able to take a long-term view on its future; it has been through many ups and downs in its long history.

It is uniquely qualified in being able to carry on through thick and thin – and no doubt will continue to do so for many more hundreds of years to come.

This is an amazing place to live and work: now wiser and certainly older, I realise how lucky I am to have experienced life in Oxford.