Work will shortly begin to deliver hundreds of affordable homes, retail spaces and community facilities across Blackbird Leys, now formal planning permission has been granted by Oxford City Council.
The council’s planning committee approved plans to carry out the transformational redevelopment in August, following more than four years of engagement with the Blackbird Leys community and more than 1,500 pieces of feedback from local residents and stakeholders.
The plans by housing association Peabody (formerly Catalyst) and development partner Oxford City Council include 294 homes across two sites, which will help to tackle Oxford’s housing shortage.
A new district centre will include 210 homes, 83 percent (174 homes) of which will be for social or affordable rent and 17 percent (36 homes) for shared ownership. A further 84 houses for shared ownership will be built at Knights Road.
The district centre is also set to provide new high-quality facilities to support the Blackbird Leys community and others that live and work in the local area. This will include green spaces, shops and a community centre, as well as improved roads with a segregated cycle route.
Beginning in April 2019, Peabody and Oxford City Council held more than 15 events for Blackbird Leys residents to feed into plans, engaging with the local community through door knocks, leaflet drops, webinars and in-person events.
With planning permission secured and agreements now finalised, the project’s contractor Hill has begun preparation work on site, including putting up hoardings at the existing Community Centre and Evenlode Tower parking and garages. Demolition will begin shortly, with the old Community Centre expected to be taken down at the end of the month.
Hill will be hosting a ‘Meet the Builder’ event on Wednesday 31 January for local residents to meet the construction team, learn more about the construction process and ask the project team questions. The drop-in session will take place in the hall of Church of The Holy Family in Cuddesdon Way from 3pm to 6pm.
Peabody and the council have also been working with local communities since August to understand their views about the new Blackbird Leys Community Centre and the public space surrounding it, which will be delivered as part of the first phase of the redevelopment. Along with events, meetings and consultations, the Leys Community Review Panel – made up of local residents – has been set up to communicate the community’s needs to the design team.
Planning consent for the Community Centre has been granted in ‘outline’, and there will be further opportunities for the community to influence plans until the submission of a detailed planning application in the spring.
Peabody and Oxford City Council will soon set out further information about how local people can access opportunities to work on the Blackbird Leys redevelopment project, learn skills in construction, and get involved with artwork on construction hoarding.
Simon Barry, Managing Director, Development at Peabody said: “We’ve come a long way since we first engaged with the community in 2019 about our proposals for Blackbird Leys, so I’m delighted to now see work beginning on site. This marks a critical step forward in our programme to rejuvenate this area with much-needed affordable homes and purpose-built high-quality public spaces.
“The next stage is to finalise our plans for the Community Centre, and we’ve had brilliant conversations with local residents and organisations over the past few months – that’s thanks to the fantastic energy of this community. We’re looking forward to building on this as we move through the final design stage.”
Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing, Oxford City Council, said: “The start of construction work on site is a major milestone in the long history of this project. Some people believed we’d never get to this stage, and the current difficulties in construction and property development mean it’s taken more time and lots of hard work to get here.
“I’d like to thank local people for bearing with us over the years as the scheme was paused and re-started and the vision for a new district centre for Blackbird Leys was developed. We now have work commencing on a scheme which will deliver nearly 300 much-needed new affordable homes, modern shops and a brand-new community centre, which will be a big boost for residents of Blackbird Leys.”
Homes England played an important role in the funding of the Blackbird Leys project, with their housing grant and infrastructure funding supporting the delivery of the much-needed homes.
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