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How do we Build Back Better?

New ideas are bubbling up, people are taking action in their communities, and demands are increasing for responses to the Covid-19 crisis that tackle the urgent social and environmental challenges in our community.

In this series of new and collated blog posts we look at how Oxfordshire would benefit from a greener, fairer future.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things, it has not really changed how our food system operates, nor our vision of a better food system. But it has certainly shaken things up, exposing vulnerabilities in our food supply chains as well as providing new windows of opportunity for making some fundamental improvements. Nina Osswald, Co-ordinator at Good Food Oxford explores how we source and think about the production of our food and what it will mean for food standards and food security.

With eight river systems and a wide variety of habitats, Oxfordshire is home to many rare and threatened plants and animals. However, wildlife in Oxfordshire has suffered serious decline over the past two decades and urgent action is needed to save some species from disappearing completely. Robbie Still, Projects Officer at the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre (TVERC), an organisation collecting, analysing and sharing geodiversity and biodiversity information in Berkshire and Oxfordshire, explains some of the ways in which they are working to reverse species decline.

Many people discovered for the first time during the pandemic that there was nature right on their doorstep, and gained a new appreciation of the wonder, joy and peace which our natural environment provides. But there are still so many who are stuck in urban or rural deserts without the comfort of nature; and without even realising what is missing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all step out of our front door and walk into a buzzing, fragrant, heady space full of the noises, colours, textures and fragrances of the wild? Camilla Burrow, Director of Wild Oxfordshire, discusses how we can all assist with nature recovery work.

How can we include the public more in decisions that are made by local government which affect all of us? How can we improve the tone of public conversation about changes to society, especially at the local level? These are the questions asked by Charlie Hicks of Build Back Better Oxford in his new blog post which looks at possible ways to improve engagement and participation at all levels and encourage new spaces for people to have well-informed, well-tempered, and meaningful conversations about how we can improve our society.

One Planet Living wheel graphic

Nicole Lazarus, Head of One Planet Living at Bioregional, tells us how she hopes the framework will help Oxfordshire towards a cleaner, greener recovery. Bioregional have always believed that deep, transformative change is possible, and their One Planet Living framework provides a straightforward path for individuals, communities, schools, businesses and more the world over. Its ten simple principles are backed by science and many years of hands-on experience. This framework is highly flexible and already helping organisations around the world to achieve their vision of a brighter, better future. Read more here

In this thought-provoking article, Lucy Warin of Transition by Design, a CAG network member, looks at five possible ideas for housing in Oxford. She encourages us all to think of houses as homes rather than assets, a first step to paving the way for the reform of housing strategy and the private rental sector. She also looks at how to provide more social homes without building, bringing empty and underused buildings back to life and repurposing empty student lets, as well as the use of modular housing and the role of the renters’ rights movement. Read more here.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic our food supply chains were forced to flex beyond what many thought possible, and whilst they were temporarily disrupted during the pandemic, food continued to flow. Although this shows a certain robustness and ability to bounce back in the face of a short-term shock, does it mean that our food systems are resilient? Simon Kenton-Lake from Nourish Scotland examines the issue in this blog where he shares insights from Scotland and beyond into what the pandemic has revealed about how resilient – or not – our food systems are. Read more here.

CAG network member

Cyclox campaign to put cycling at the heart of Oxford’s future and write a weekly column, On yer Bike, for the Oxford Mail. In this edition, Danny Yee explains in simple terms what a Low Traffic Neighbourhood is, how they work and how they benefit the communities and businesses in each area. They reflect new planning styles but can be retrofitted to older residential areas to improve conditions for all. International evidence has demonstrated their success, why can’t this be replicated in Oxford? Read more here.


Coalition for Healthy Streets and Active Travel (CoHSAT) held a pop-up exhibition in central Oxford to share ideas for a reimagined city with a better public realm, more cycling provision and more pedestrianisation. With the help of several of our network members, they have come up with an ambitious approach to tackling congestion and improving public transport. Although the physical exhibition has now closed, the ideas can all be explored on their website here. If you missed the exhibition, you can also have your say in their online survey.

What do the new planning reforms mean for community-led housing and democratic planning? The Chair of the Oxfordshire Community Land Trust, Dr. Bob Colenutt, responds by exploring the myths around planning, the false arguments involved and why large developers are not providing the homes the nation needs. He argues that as the system stands, efforts to ‘solve the housing crisis’ and meet government housing targets are doomed to failure and fundamental system change is needed in order to meet targets and provide affordable housing for all, including the elderly, disabled, those with health problems and the homeless. Read more here.

ox liv streets

Oxfordshire Liveable Streets take a look at liveable neighbourhoods, explains what they are and offers inspiration from Waltham Forest where the concept is thriving. So how can you start the process of setting one up? This article takes a look at just that: what the costings might be, what design features you might want to consider and how changes might affect traffic and street use as well as how to inform local people in a way that results in positive consultations. Read more here.

Buses are central to Oxford’s existing transport and will need to play an even bigger role in any sustainable future. More generally, such a future requires the world to transition away from private motor vehicles, with perhaps an 80% reduction in car miles in the UK, and the bulk of that transport “hole” will have to be filled by bicycles and buses. Danny Yee talks through the relationship between buses and bicycles, and their synergies, conflicts and policies. Read more here.


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