On to Oxford where BMW assemble the Mini from parts that come by road from all over Europe. A seminar; Oxford Futures organised with the Oxford Civic Society and the City Council revealed the conflicts over whether our historic cities should grow in what is the least affordable city in Britain. It raised the difficulties of implementing a growth strategy to get full value from all the knowledge the City has built up. There should be great scope to use promised investment in better railway links to make Oxford more like continental cities, but only if the authorities bury their differences and work together for the common and longer-term good.
Oxford’s City Deal bid looks really promising, yet was rubbished by Green belt preservationists as soon as it was submitted. Research still takes place in silos, and for all the advances in digital media, communication is poor. No wonder Germany continues to outstrip us! Yet I believe Oxford could still provide a model for ‘smarter growth’. In a small way the work URBED has been doing for the joint venture between Grosvenor Developments and Oxford City Council should show how to use the idea of the Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood to bring different parts of the community together. But I do wish that we could face up to the real challenges, and build at the same pace and quality as in the rest of Northern Europe. To find out more about Oxford Futures visit the Oxford Civic Society website and read the Visions March 2013 newsletter.