We need to talk about Oxford

David Rudlin

The city is choking as it struggles to build a sustainable future, but David Rudlin finds reasons to be hopeful

If you take a guided tour you are told that Oxford is the oldest university in Britain and that Cambridge was founded by a group of Oxford students expelled after an unfortunate incident in 1209. The story is told slightly differently in Cambridge, but it feeds into the rivalry between the two cities and their venerable institutions. There was, as a result, a certain amount of embarrassment when the Oxford Times reported that a party from Oxford council had been spotted on a study tour of Cambridge to learn from their great rival.

Sitting at either end of the CaMKOx corridor the two small cities are facing intense development pressures in very different ways. There has been much discussion about the need for transport links along the corridor and the potential to build a million homes. However, growing the cities themselves in a way that retains their character and can be served by public transport is an even more intractable problem.

In rising to this challenge Oxford does have much to learn from Cambridge. This is one of the messages of the Oxfordshire Futures report launched a few days ago. It is the culmination of five years in which my colleague Nicholas Falk has been working without pay with the excellent people at the Oxford Civic Society. Over that time six reports have been produced looking at the growth of Oxford, the development of a new quarter around its station, affordable housing and the potential for a tram network.

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