This immediately suggests that nearly twice as many homes could be built on these sites, or conversely, only half the amount of land need be developed. Unsurprisingly, some of these points are also made in CPRE Oxfordshire's response to this consultation, and with more detail, at least on official policy for 'urban extensions' (70 dwellings per hectare), but less on the low density of current developed land - there is just one unquantified reference to this possibility, as applying to anywhere in the Oxford region, preferably within Oxford, one suspects, and definitely not specifically in Kidlington, Yarton or Begbroke.
CPRE Oxfordshire also make the fair point that if these new sites were developed at such higher densities, the new homes would be less likely to be snapped up by wealthy Londoners, availing themselves of the excellent train service into Marylebone from Oxford Parkway. But for them this is a debating point. Their logic is meant to conclude that, whatever unmet housing need there might be in the Oxford region, with the highest rent to median income ratio in the country, still nothing needs to change in this particular back yard.
But clearly something does need to change. As the researchers looking at UK Biobank data conclude, living at such low densities is not good for people. One or two people may get out and about walking, or even running, but most will use a car if they can. If they can't afford to, they will use a bus, but frequent services will not be economic with low housing densities. Instead, houses will be bought up by the more affluent, who can also afford to run a car. Teachers and other key workers will be priced out, something which may be reflected in the disappointing performance of Gosford Hill School.
As Cherwell District council makes clear, with reference to regional planning documents, Kidlington, Yarton and Begbroke are part of the larger Oxford region. However, they have their identities, and these need to be developed, rather than eroded. This is not a matter of still retaining short stretches of car dominated road between them and Oxford, while allowing their outward expansion at existing low densities beyond, but developing their own identities as local centres within a larger Oxford. The roads to Oxford need to be places where people other than drivers want to be - so cyclists, people waiting for a bus or even the occasional jogger.
The 'do nothing' CPRE approach doesn't work either. When housing is as expensive in the area as it is, it requires a belief that supply and demand do not apply in housing to say no new housing is needed. As well as failing to meet the duty of local authorities to co-operate with their naighbours, it will leave the existing problems of this area as they are, if not to worsen.
The deeper problem is that few people, apart from YIMBYs, are thinking seriously about how existing development can be densified, in a way which gets the buy in of residents and planners. It's why professional planners can produce documents for consultation, such as this, which do not even consider how many more homes can be built on existing developed land. Of course, market forces mean that some densification happens, although many planners will see this as something to oppose, on the basis of changing the character on an area. But the character of areas do change, even as we can plan to preserve, even enhance what there is. In the case of Kidlington, the canal heritage seems almost ignored, as does the very river which gives the local authority its name. When I came back to find that bridge over the Cherwell, I was delighted to see a kingfisher - which had of course flown by the time I got my phone out.