We Can’t Afford to Neglect Affordable Housing

In Kidlington affordable housing is not just difficult to find, it’s pretty much impossible. Recognised as one of the most expensive areas of the district to live in, Kidlington does have some affordable housing in areas but the problem is that most of it is owned and allocated by the City Council. Indeed large areas of the village have been given over to the city’s needs, not least Grovelands which was built almost entirely for the City Council’s use.

And soon we’ll have even more, with the local plan partial review, which was adopted in 2020 after 3 years of objection and protest from local residents and pressure groups, providing yet more housing for the City’s needs with the 50% so-called affordable element having been signed over to the City Council’s control in a closed meeting during the first lockdown in 2020.

We all know that the term ‘affordable housing’ is virtually meaningless in Oxfordshire, but even so, very little is built in Kidlington. Even when the district council’s policy to to ensure that 30% of all new housing on larger estates is ‘affordable’, we hardly see anything being built that fulfils that criteria.

The flats above the Co-op were essentially given over to the flying school for their exclusive use, even though 3 of the apartments were meant to be available for residents needing affordable accommodation. At least 15 of those flats should have been designated affordable, but the district council messed up the planning application and we ended up with just 3 units available, with the rest being let on the open market. The agreement with developer in that case was so badly negotiated that in 3 years only 1 of those flats has been let on an affordable basis. The terms demand that the council must nominate someone within a 28 day window once a year which is almost impossible to do.

Flats on the old Co-Op car park site now almost exclusively let to a local flying school at market rent

15 more flats are due to be built on the Kidlington Garage site at the top of the Bicester Road. When the planning application was agreed the developers were supposed to provide £609,000 in lieu of the 5 affordable apartments. But 6 months later they returned to the planning committee with a viability assessment that argued they couldn’t afford to make any contribution at all. Nothing! Zilch!

This is because the government mandates that developers should be guaranteed a profit of 20% on all developments (how nice it would be for other businesses to be guaranteed a profit by the government!). This leaves it open for developers to game the system and make claims that they can’t meet this profitability threshold and thereby reduce or, as in this case, completely remove their responsibility to provide any affordable units or money in lieu.

I and my fellow Green Councillor Fiona Mawson thought this was wrong and we tabled a motion to refuse the planning application if no affordable element was provided. Sadly, as we and our opposition group are outnumbered on the planning committee, the plans were approved by the Conservative majority.

Subsequently I brought a motion to the council to increase our affordable requirement on larger developments from 30% to 50% to bring us in line with the City policy. As we have agreed to that percentage on the developments being built in and around Kidlington for the City Council, I thought it only fair that we should give our own residents the same consideration. I was pleased to see that the motion was passed almost unanimously.

It’s still sobering to think though that out of around 90 apartments that have been built in Kidlington in the past 5 years, only 3 have been designated affordable and as I explained above, out of those 3, only one has actually been let to a family that needed it.

Cherwell is desperately in need of a change of direction in this issue. We need a council who is prepared to stand up to developers and push for better deals for all our residents. Moreover we need to ensure more affordable developments are brought on line that will benefit local families rather than forcing them to split up as grown children need to move away from their area simply because they can’t afford a home of their own. I believe a change of administration next month could see that better direction and I hope to be a part of that.


The Bulldozers are Rolling in Wolvercote

St John’s College, part of Oxford University have started tearing up green fields in Wolvercote, North Oxford, for their money making project dubbed Oxford North.

The people in the area are in shock at what is happening to their green spaces and the likely impact on everyone of this massive project.

This will comprise mostly business parks, shops, restaurants and hotels with some housing, most of which will not be affordable to the people in the area. It’s not only removing vital green infrastructure it’s also going to massively increase congestion on local roads as it creates another 4500 jobs that the city simply doesn’t need, without providing the houses that it does desperately need.

Oxford City Council claims it can’t meet its own affordable housing needs. The Oxford North development demonstrates the reason why. The City Council chooses not to meet that need and instead pushes it on to the surrounding districts such as Cherwell and South Oxfordshire.

I joined the protest as Wolvercote directly abuts my district council ward in Cherwell and is likely to impact heavily on Kidlington, especially on top of the extra development that is planned for the area around Kidlington, Gosford and Water Eaton, Yarnton and Begbroke, assuming that goes ahead.

I made a short video giving some of the context which you can watch using this link below.

The people of Wolvercote and North Oxford send a message to St Johns College Oxford University

We need to stand up against the same brazen greed that is motivating the concreting over of our precious green spaces before it’s too late. You’ll have a chance to send a message to those councillors who backed these projects in the election in May.

In Cherwell the plans were promoted and pushed through by the Conservative ruling group in the face of massive opposition from local residents which they completely disregarded and continue to ignore. In Oxford the Labour run City Council continues to apply pressure on other districts to deal with the housing need the city is making worse by using spaces like these to build more economic development rather than affordable housing,

Greens have always stood against this sort of opportunistic expansionism for profit and we always will.


Housing on Green Belt Will Never be ‘Affordable’


I took a day out of campaigning this week to attend and speak at the public inquiry of the Oxford City local plan.

It was a feeling of déjà vu for me as I spent several days doing the same thing in Cherwell earlier this year when our local plan partial review was being examined.  Cherwell is pushing to build thousands of houses on green belt land in the south of the district and I have been campaigning for the past 2 years to protect those vital green areas for future generations.

I was at the inquiry into the city plans because it’s those proposals that are forcing local district councils to add to their own housing requirements to service what the city claims is an ‘unmet need’.  Whilst I and other campaigners don’t dispute that Oxford has a need for housing for its own workers, claims that they can’t meet that need within their own boundaries are hotly disputed.

It’s generally believed that the reason they can’t meet that need themselves is that they would rather use their own land for economic development to build more shops, offices, hotels, restaurants and student accommodation.  The Labour run city council then expect the surrounding rural districts to meet their housing need for them and Conservative run councils like Cherwell are only too glad to oblige as this gives them a perfect excuse to enrich the local landowners and developers who support them.

It’s sad to see that both Labour and the Conservatives are pursuing a policy of green belt destruction in Oxfordshire when there really is no need.  There are plenty of brownfield sites available to build on, as well as empty properties that should be re-purposed or brought back into use.

I want to see more genuinely affordable housing for people on average incomes. More social and council housing. Rent controls on private landlords and an end to unfair developer lease & ground rent charges, but we will never see large amounts of affordable housing in Oxfordshire if they are built on high value green belt land.  The only reason these areas are targetted is because they are ripe to be used by developers to build high value executive homes and mini-mansions to make a massive killing.

There should not be development on Green Belt land except where there is an incontrovertible need to do so.  Our precious green spaces should not be handed over the developers simply to make huge profits for landowners and speculators, especially when much of that housing is not affordable in any real sense.

Green spaces are also now even more vital to help combat climate change and flooding.  Concreting them over and adding more roads and houses with inefficient heating systems just piles on the pressure to the environment and exports Oxford’s poor air quality standards to the rural areas of the county.

The Green party has pledged to build 100,000 genuinely affordable socially rented properties every year for 10 years.  Houses that will be built to the Passive House standard meaning they will be both sustainable and affordable to maintain and heat.

This will not only provide much-needed homes for people of average incomes, they will be the right houses in the right places and will also provide employment for thousands of builders and manufacturers.

This is on top of retrofitting every house in the country to make them more energy efficient as part of our Green New Deal.

As a founding member of a housing co-op in London in the 1980s, I also want to encourage other ways of getting people into affordable housing such as Land Trusts and Co-ops and see more social and council housing built.

You can find out more about our policies on housing in our manifesto here