THE LEADER of Oxford City Council has hit out at developers behind the £50 million Oxford North project, claiming that a formal planning application includes zero affordable homes.

A ‘disappointed’ Susan Brown also warned that £16 million worth of public money earmarked for the scheme was ‘not guaranteed’.

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However, city MP Layla Moran waded in to criticise both the council and developer after its official planning application went public yesterday.


Ms Brown said: “I am disappointed that the application currently includes zero per cent affordable housing. That is something I would like to see change.

“They [the developers] have described 25 per cent of affordable housing as ‘aspirational’ but there is no commitment to affordable housing whatsoever. Aspiration is not a commitment.”

Plans for the new urban district, previously known as the Northern Gateway, could create 4,500 new jobs, alongside 480 homes on land between the Wolvercote roundabout, the A34 and the Peartree roundabout.

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The government defines ‘affordable housing’ – for both rental and buying – as being no more than 80 per cent of market level. The city council says that for each 100 units of new housing, it aims for 40 units of social rented/ council housing and 10 units of affordable housing.

Developer Thomas White Oxford, working on behalf of St John’s College, disputed the suggestion that there was no commitment to affordable homes.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: “It has never been correct that the proposal for this site will not include any affordable housing. We recognise the need for affordable housing in Oxford and have been in discussion with the city council over the last 18 months to see how this can best be achieved.

“It is our stated intention to provide a level of affordable housing of at least 25 per cent, the barrier to providing more is simply the cost of new road and other infrastructure that the project also has to fund. Zero per cent affordable housing will not be acceptable to the city council nor to Thomas White Oxford.

“The city council are aware of our position through the long series of preliminary discussions that have taken place. We have worked with the city council to secure government grants to support some of the infrastructure costs and with this the 25 per cent minimum is achievable and we hope we can go further."

Commenting on the section of the application stating the zero per cent figure, the spokesperson added: “As we are still in discussions with the city council about the level of affordability, the form demands that, at this stage, technically the figure is zero per cent but this does not reflect the full narrative.”

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Oxford West and Abingdon MPLayla Moran added: “Once again we see a major development proposed for Oxford that has the balance between jobs and homes the wrong way round. The provision of genuinely affordable housing should be the primary aim of any Oxford development, not an afterthought.

“The acute need in Oxford is for more homes, and we need a good mix of tenures and price. If that isn’t at the forefront of this development then there is a serious risk that it will make the local housing market even less affordable.

“Developers and local councils need to rethink their approach.”

Speaking in her capacity as leader, rather than on behalf of the council, Ms Brown continued: “St John’s College is the richest college – I think they can do better than that.

“There is still time and room for further discussions that could deliver real change to the plans.

“It’s not unreasonable, given that £16 million of public money is being made available, to expect a significant amount of affordable housing.”

Oxfordshire’s Local Enterprise Partnership, working alongside the city and Oxfordshire County Council, secured some £5.9 million of funding for the project from the government’s local growth fund.

A further £10 million has been provisionally secured by the city council from Homes England, subject to planning permission being granted.

Developers said the project would boost the city’s economy by £150 million a year, and that they would pump £100 million into infrastructure, including £30 million on improving walking, cycling, bus and highway networks.

The city council is now inviting public comments on the application – one of the largest it has received for a number of years – online. It is also seeking input from a range of bodies including the Environment Agency, Highways England, Natural England and neighbouring authorities.

Ms Brown also urged members of the public to give their views on the application, particularly around the issue of affordable housing.

To comment on the application, visit