A strategy for Oxfordshire that shifts emphasis to creating viable and revitalised rural communities and eases pressure on urban centres

For some months, Blenheim Estate has been liaising with Oxfordshire Open Thought looking at a more sustainable future for Oxfordshire. Together we are reflecting on what we have learnt over the last year from the Covid 19 pandemic and how that learning might be taken forward into how we live and work, how we will connect and how we relate to our environment and nature in the coming years.

In our response to the climate emergency this year we made it clear, we feel there is a need to do things differently in order to achieve the shifts necessary to protect the environment and secure our own health and well-being. As a landed Estate, a holder of local property and a large employer we are deeply rooted to the area and recognise our responsibility to those who live and work in and around Blenheim today but also to those who follow us in future generations.

We’ve been working with the team at VeloCity; architects, planners, engineers and place makers who developed an award-winning proposal looking at how the area between Oxford and Cambridge could develop. Our work with the team is centred around the potential the spatial aspects of our Blenheim Estate land strategy has and how we can ensure a more sustainable future for rural Oxfordshire.

Our shared vision challenges the way in which the planning and development of rural areas has been approached historically, to the benefit of both our local communities and the environment. It’s important to note that this concept (and it is a concept at this stage) is in the very early stages of discussion. Oxfordshire Open Thought has now commenced a consultation period canvassing feedback on the above, you can find more information and to feedback your views on the Oxfordshire Open Thought website.

Download the full Open Thought submission


We are the first generation to know we are destroying the planet and the last one that can do anything about it." Tanya Steele Chief Executive of the World Wildlife Fund

Connecting Rural Communities

Our ‘Villages In A Garden’ strategy would create village clusters – focussing on the land and villages within the Blenheim Estate and those within an 8km cycle ride from it. These would be connected by more sustainable movement networks prioritising cycling, walking and electric vehicles and benefit from many shared resources that would be advantageous to all.

Holistic Growth Strategy

Holistic Growth Strategy

The overall joint strategy is a holistic one that would contribute to the delivery on our pledge to secure a carbon positive future by 2027. We would become an exemplar for others to follow with our place-based vision, as we meet the area’s growing housing and community needs, whilst ensuring positive long term economic, social and environmental outcomes.

People Not Cars

People Not Cars

Traditional planning has led to rural areas being disconnected and only accessible by car. By linking villages via a network of cycling and walking routes, villages can collectively grow and become less reliant on cars. Proposed initiatives such as bike buses for children, could foster an early commitment to active travel, whilst providing social connections.

Sustainable & Local

Sustainable & Local

We propose to create community and work hubs within villages, adopting place-specific smart technology and super-fast broadband to make local collaboration and development of rural businesses easier. By enhancing access into the surrounding countryside and diversifying local agriculture, a key aim would be to better meet the food production and leisure needs of our communities, fostering a truly shared local economy.

Commitment to Climate & Biodiversity

Commitment to Climate & Biodiversity

By reducing traffic and continual investment in renewable energy sources, we would be helping to create climate-resilient local communities. By adopting carbon-negative agriculture practices and a natural capital approach to landscape management, we would be able to increase local food production, improve water management and encourage greater biodiversity and nature recovery.

How long will this take?

This would be a long term plan, spanning 20 years in total. Years 0-2 building the foundation, Years 0-10 Enabling Transition. Years 10-20 Shifting Gear

What key themes comprise the overall strategy?

The three key themes of the strategy all comprise multiple elements as listed below:

Connectivity- connecting everything, mobility interchanges, personalised freight and future transport.

Living And Working – Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Living, New Ways of Working and Strengthening Natural Assets

Climate – Air, Water, Carbon, Biodiversity

Which specific climate objectives are you trying to meet?

Blenheim Estate has a target to become a net generator of green energy by 2027. We have two climate objectives that form part of the strategy. These are:

  • To enable our rural communities to meet the Government’s zero carbon target and embrace the principles of a circular economy.
  • To restore habitats and create climate resilient rural communities

What do you mean by Connectivity?

A core premise of the joint strategy is to revitalise rural communities by making them more self-sufficient and connected, without such heavy reliance on cars. To this end, the connectivity part of the strategy addresses the need for alternative transport provision such as cycle paths, bridleways and pedestrian routes. We would be re-prioritising traffic to reduce through traffic in villages and implementing more infrastructure such as park and rides, village car hire/share schemes and place-smart technology in village hubs to facilitate a more environmentally-friendly approach to services such as deliveries and waste collection.

Where can I find out more?

The full strategy and VeloCity proposal can be found here.