Cllr James Mills is the Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council.
With Government backing for our planned Garden Village we now have a fantastic opportunity for a new settlement here in West Oxfordshire which can set the standard for others to emulate.
Our growing population means there is increasing pressure to build more to accommodate the needs of those who want to live in West Oxfordshire and there is no doubt that demand is outstripping supply. Recent figures showed the cost of an apartment in Witney has increased by 29 per cent between December 2015 and June 2016, an increase which is larger than in Oxford and the South East in general, while rents are also climbing rapidly.
If it is allowed to continue, then we will have no local teachers in our schools, nurses in our medical facilities, or staff to work in our shops as they won’t be able to afford to live here. More and more people will have to drive into the area, creating greater problems on already overcrowded roads such as the A40.
But the answer is not just a question of building more houses – the infrastructure has to be in place. We want to see high quality employment created, so our plans also include a science business park in the new village. We believe that an integrated approach such as the garden village proposal will mean more houses can be built, roads and transport links improved, and better jobs created, which will benefit everyone in the district.
Garden village principles embrace sustainability and so the development ties in with plans for a Park and Ride service from this area into Oxford. We will also look to create cycle and pedestrian routes from the new village to nearby Hanborough railway station, providing people with an alternative to driving to work.
Most people in our existing villages don’t want to see more development on their doorstep so garden villages are a way of providing more affordable new homes, which can help to keep more of our younger people in the area.
We must find a way to balance competing demands. We must preserve the best of what West Oxfordshire already offers and use this opportunity to bring in new infrastructure to the benefit of everyone.
Old villages might have a higher ‘chocolate box factor’ but new villages will be better for broadband and parking, and it will be crucial to ensure that garden villages are well-catered-for. I am working hard with a range of people and organisations locally and nationally to improve transport, education and healthcare for everybody in West Oxfordshire. In conclusion, I believe that a mix of old villages and garden villages will be the bedrock of a county that works for everyone.