A NEW Oxford-bound bus lane on the A34 and improvements for cycling are among a host of multi-million pound projects council leaders have signed off funding for this week.

Money for 43 new projects over the next four years – which could cost £500m – was agreed by the Oxfordshire Growth Board, which again batted away claims it is undemocratic.

The new city-bound bus lane from a proposed new park and ride in Lodge Hill to the Hinksey Hill Interchange is set to cost about £25 million.

The vast majority of that would come in payments from developers – but the Growth Board said it will contribute £1.3m.

That money will be taken from the £215m Oxfordshire Growth Deal agreed by Government and Oxfordshire councils in March in exchange for new homes.

Other eye-catching proposals will see £10.3m spent on improving cycle lanes in Barns Road in Oxford to make it easier to ride around Cowley, Blackbird Leys, Littlemore, Oxford Science Park and Oxford Business Park.

Jane Murphy, the chairwoman of the Oxfordshire Growth Board and the leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Getting infrastructure right is one or our greatest responsibilities as local councils. This is a list of much-needed projects that will have a meaningful and positive effect on the quality of life for our residents.

“This is at the heart of what we are doing with the Growth Deal, and I think this demonstrates how we’re able to tackle these challenges effectively across the whole of Oxfordshire better than we have ever been able to do so before.”

Another £18.8m Oxford-bound bus lane and bus priority will be created at the Heyford Hill roundabout. A two-way cycle route will also be built from it.

Further work to the Eastern Bypass corridor is ‘expected to reduce private car traffic and improve Oxford’s air quality’.

That will also include a new bus lane and will ‘support growth and wider movement between key housing and employment sites across south and east Oxford and South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse’. That is expected to cost £38.1m.

Work to build a new and improved cycle route in Abingdon Road and improving cycle paths in Iffley Road is anticipated.

Other schemes to reduce congestion in Hennef Way in Banbury will also be included, at a cost to the Growth Board of about £18.5m. Another £1.5m will be taken from developers’ contributions.

Improvements to the Banbury Road and Woodstock Road corridors will cost £9.7m and £9.1m, respectively. All of that cost is set to be taken from the Growth Board’s funds.

In Banbury Road, that is expected to mean longer bus lanes, from Bevington Road to Cunliffe Close, with others being extended in Cutteslowe and to Kidlington.

In Woodstock Road, work will include a northbound bus lane from St Bernard’s Road to Bainton Road. Southbound, a bus lane will run from Wolvercote roundabout to Beech Croft Road and Bainton Road.

Other improvements will see new slip roads built to improve access from the A40 to Carterton. A relief road in Watlington will also be built, along with a new primary school in Shrivenham.

Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council and the chairman of the Growth Board’s infrastructure advisory sub-group, said: “This is a major public and private sector investment in Oxfordshire that will create much-needed homes with better transport links, including walking and cycling.

“As important is the investment in schools and other infrastructure that Oxfordshire’s communities need to thrive. I want to foster a sense of place in existing and new communities, while supporting the economic growth we need to ensure a good quality of life in the future.”

The funding for the measures was officially agreed at the Growth Board’s meeting at Didcot Civic Hall on Tuesday.

The board heard some projects designed to be completed in the Growth Deal’s first year had been delayed after agreement was struck in the spring. Those delays are mostly because of developers’ glitches.

Barry Wood, Cherwell District Council’s leader, urged for delayed projects to be started as quickly as possible.

He said: “Officers should not doubt the commitment to the [Growth Deal]. It took a long time and a lot of input to get to that deal and it’s a special place for Oxfordshire, which other counties do not enjoy.

“It is a good deal and it’s important for us that officers understand we need to keep up to the pace and allow the obligations on us not to slip away or the benefits might slip away after them.”

The No Expressway Alliance, an anti-Oxford-Cambridge Expressway group, demonstrated in the civic hall’s foyer ahead of the meeting.

In a written question, Helen Gee, a South Oxfordshire resident, said she could not understand how the Growth Board, ‘as an unelected body, has [its] power’ to implement the Growth Deal.

But Mr Wood said: “I think it’s also important to say – because some people forget – that the Growth Deal was in fact endorsed in each separate council that makes up this board.

“Each district and the county [council] voted for the Growth Deal. It was a democratic process that elected councillors voted for. This is not something that has been imposed by this august body. It’s been something voted through a democratic process.”