The Oxpens site is a key regeneration site for Oxford – it is an under-used but central and well-connected location which can contribute much more to Oxford, the city centre, its residential housing need, and its place at the forefront of global innovation. Its transformation and regeneration will have a big and positive impact on Oxford and it is an opportunity the joint venture company and its shareholders have been working hard to get right.
Oxpens sits at the heart of wider ambitions for the Oxford West End Innovation District to develop a mixture of R&D space and facilities for spin out companies, as well as to bring more much needed residential housing to the area. The Innovation District is one of the priorities within Oxfordshire’s Local Industrial Strategy Investment Plan, and will be realised through the delivery of development sites in the west end of the city, including the planned upgrade to Oxford Railway Station, the Jam Factory, Island Site and Worcester Street car park sites controlled by Nuffield College, and the University of Oxford’s ambitions for Osney Mead.
The Oxford West End Innovation District is also identified by the Government in its spatial framework for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc as a priority project (published 18 February 2021), and has the potential to significantly enhance this area of the city and to drive forward the economic, social and environmental objectives set by the Government for the Arc.
Momentum is building with the Government expected to announce its decision on proposals from Network Rail for a multi-million pound investment in Oxford Station shortly, the first phase of the wider regeneration of the station and associated rail infrastructure.
As a sign of its commitment to enabling its future plans for the West End, Oxford City Council will shortly start work on a new West End and Osney Mead Masterplan Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). This will be an important policy document which establishes a framework for successful and sustainable future growth.
OxWED has commissioned a professional team including masterplan architects Hawkins Brown and landscape architects Gillespies to prepare an indicative masterplan for the Oxpens site in order to establish the future potential of the site and what its regeneration could look like.
The indicative and ambitious masterplan will set out plans for a mixed-use development, with a range of potential residential uses across a total of 15 acres anchored around high-quality public realm and making the most of its relationship with the river.
Oxpens will deliver both homes and new employment/business space for the city – potentially supporting over 3,000 jobs and the provision of around 450 residential dwellings.
The scope of these plans will allow for extensive cycle and pedestrian routes through the Oxpens site to connect to a new bridge over the River Thames that will link Osney Mead with Oxford city centre. The new development also aims to link with the upgrades needed to Oxpens Road for the forthcoming Zero Emission Zone and Connecting Oxford proposals.
OxWED is now seeking to take these indicative proposals onto the next stage with the intention of consulting key stakeholders and the community on the plans later in the Summer of 2021. Informed by detailed consultation and conversations with all Oxford stakeholders, the team intends to submit a planning application in 2022.
To achieve this, OxWED is seeking funding from its shareholders, Oxford City Council and Nuffield College. Both partners are anticipated to consider the funding request this month with a decision due in early March – the decision is an item for the City Council’s forthcoming Cabinet meeting on 10 March and is due to be considered by the College’s Governing Body on the same day.
Kevin Minns, Managing Director at OxWED, said: “Oxpens is a unique and timely opportunity for Oxford and one we want to bring forward successfully and in the right way. In particular, it can deliver both homes and the larger commercial buildings needed in an Innovation District to drive economic prosperity, all within a highly sustainable location just a few minutes’ walk from the railway station, Westgate shopping centre and Oxford City Centre. Momentum is building in the West End and we’re looking to share our ambitious plans later this summer and get people involved. To do that, our next task is to secure investment funding so that we can get them ready for that important community input and consultation.”
Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Delivery, said: “I am delighted to have reached this significant milestone in the future redevelopment of the Oxpens site. This is testament to the close working relationship Oxford City Council has formed with its Joint Venture partner, Nuffield College. The delivery of the Oxpens scheme is a top priority for both organisations, with the potential to deliver a genuinely mixed-use scheme creating a new community and new jobs – against the backdrop of our city’s recovery from the COVID pandemic. The recommendation to move forward to the submission of an outline planning application, funded by the shareholder partners, demonstrates our shared long-term commitment to this project and the city. It will give greater control over the project and better financial returns for the Council.”
Sir Andrew Dilnot, Warden of Nuffield College, said: “This is a hugely exciting and potentially pivotal step in the process of delivering the redevelopment of the Oxpens site. I am delighted by the progress which has brought us to this point, by the vision which is emerging for the site, and by the promise of more progress to come, all of which has been made possible by the hard work of the OxWED team and the partnership of its two shareholders. I am confident that in these and other ways we will be able to bring about enduring and positive change to the city of Oxford in general and to the West End in particular, at a moment when it is most needed.”
OxWED and Oxpens
Oxford West End Development Limited (‘OxWED’) is JV between Oxford City Council and Nuffield College and owns the majority of the land allocated for redevelopment under the Oxford Local Plan on the west side of Oxpens Road.
Current indications are that the site has potential capacity for 70,000 sq m of commercial floorspace as part of a total 120,000 sq m of mixed-use development.
Under the draft and early stage plans, the site could potentially support over 3,000 jobs and contain circa 450 residential dwellings across a range of housing types.
OxWED is seeking investment funding from its shareholders of up to £2m to progress the indicative proposals through to the planning application stage.
Wider West End investment and Innovation District
On the Arc: More on the Government’s spatial framework for the Arc (announced 18 February 2021) here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-plan-to-transform-oxford-cambridge-arc-into-uk-s-fastest-growing-economic-region
On the railway station: Central Government is expected to announce its decision on a multi-million pound investment in Oxford Station in early March, the first phase of the wider regeneration of the station and associated rail infrastructure. The City and County are now working with Network Rail on the masterplan and business case for next and final phase of proposals. This wider rail industry-led programme is called ‘Oxfordshire Connect’.
On need/demand from business occupiers: The demand for science and tech-led space in the city and city centre is increasing exponentially, with Oxford at the forefront of scientific advancement globally. Articulating the opportunity for investment at a West End scale (through the Oxford West End Innovation District initiative) rather on a site-by-site basis is anticipated to be more powerful and successful.
On Oxford West End Innovation District: The innovation district has the opportunity to provide a new mixed-use district for business growth and innovation as an extension of Oxford’s city centre, encompassing A-Grade office space and R&D HQ facilities for spin-out companies and inward investment along with housing across multiple sites, so forming the largest scale mixed-use development project in generations. This project is focussed on delivering a sustainable, integrated and connected district encompassing Osney Mead, Oxford National Railway Hub and Station, Oxpens, and other development sites with retail, hotel, university, lab and office, and residential spaces. The District will be realised through the coordination of local landowners and partners, and the facilitation of infrastructure investment across key development sites. Together, the sites account for 350,000 sq m, to be brought forward over 15 years with £1.5bn of largely private sector investment.