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Column 20th April 2022

Lies, damned lies and statistics

Everyone will know the saying about “lies, damned lies and statistics” - well read on and form your own opinion.

Regular readers will know all about the Oxfordshire Growth Needs Assessment (OGNA), an analysis which produced three alternative figures for the housing growth across Oxfordshire from 2020 to 2050.

  • The “Adjusted” Standard Method uses a questionable methodology where the consultants have created their own demographic projections to suggest that 101,580 more homes are required.
  • “Business as Usual” is an employment projection based on a period of post 2008 recession high growth and suggests that 123,390 more homes are needed
  • “Transformational” is an economic trajectory based on an update of the Local Industrial Strategy’s aspirational ‘go for growth’ scenario and requires 152,790 more homes.

Publication of this analysis has already met with widespread criticism from local civic groups, leading to a call for a peer review of the OGNA to assess the credibility of the analysis.

A new report by independent consultancy Opinion Research Services (ORS) commissioned by the Cherwell Development Watch Alliance directly questions this analysis.

The report criticises the methodologies used for calculating population and employment growth in the county.

For a copy of the full report you can contact cherwelldwa@gmail.com.

ORS finds that the ‘OGNA “Adjusted” Standard Method is very different from, and does not represent, the Standard Method. Its use is unjustified and is contrary to Government guidance.’

It goes on to say that
‘very little information is given about the assumptions or source data underlying the jobs growth scenarios and source data references are inadequate’.
‘This makes it virtually impossible to understand in any detail how the trajectories have been constructed.’

It also states that the “Transformational” proposal ‘represents a very high rate of sustained growth only likely to come about as part of national policy-driven redistribution of resources towards the region.’
‘The Oxford-Cambridge Arc initiative might have supported a transformational growth scenario but now appears to no longer form part of central Government Policy.’

We had similar comments about the Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment produced in 2014 and used to justify the huge housing growth figures included in current local plans.

Will our Councillors across Oxfordshire continue to bury their heads in the sand and agree to use these figures for revised plans without any possibility of the infrastructure funding necessary to support them?

We have a horrible feeling of déjà vu.


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