"Objectionable", "Unsustainable" and "Undemocratic" - says John Howell MP of the City's plans to expand into Green Belt.

 

CPRE's 'Hands Off Oxford's Green Belt' Campaign Rally

Horspath Village Hall, Sunday 19 April 2009

 

About 100 people came along to the CPRE's 'Hands Off Oxford's Green Belt' campaign rally at Horspath Village Hall on Sunday 19 April. Amongst those in the audience were Ann Ducker, Leader of the SODC, John Cotton, SODC Cabinet Member, Anne Purse, District Councillor for Forest Hill, Janet Carr, Parish Council Chairman for Wheatley and District Councillor for Wheatley. Residents from the Leys and Berinsfield also attended.

 

Caroline Lucas MEP, who was unable to attend the rally, sent a strong message of support: "The benefits of green open spaces are increasingly appreciated from a range of perspectives, including for our well being and mental health as well as the environment. As you enjoy the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside, please consider what this area would look like if the government forges ahead with meeting its unsustainable housing targets. I am sorry I cannot be with you to say 'Hands Off Oxford's Green Belt' …By all working together I am confident that we can win this one and I shall certainly be doing my utmost in the European Parliament to help protect our valuable countryside from unnecessary development."

 

Ian Scargill, Chairman of the Oxford Green Belt Network, kicked off the rally by saying that Oxford City has always seen the Green Belt as an "obstacle to its expansionist ambitions" and simply as a "reserve of land for development".

 

The Green Belt provides City dwellers with "quality of life" said Ian Scargill, and warned those in the audience that they would be the losers if they allowed it to be developed.

 

Elizabeth Gillespie, SODC Councillor for Garsington and The Baldons, began her presentation by saying that the Oxford Green Belt is currently "threatened as never before". She confirmed that the SODC is "fighting against" the proposed development of more than 4,000 homes south of Grenoble Road and called on the Conservative Party to "roll back the proposals" if it comes to power at the next election.

 

Commenting on SODC's proposal to review the Green Belt at Wheatley and Berinsfield as part of its Core Strategy, Elizabeth Gillespie said that there are "no special circumstances" to warrant the development of the Green Belt at Wheatley. She said that the proposal to expand Berinsfield into the Green Belt is currently out for consultation, but if it can be shown that there is a "genuine local need" which can only be met by extending into the Green Belt then this could be a special circumstance allowing the development.

 

John Howell, MP, began his presentation by saying that the proposed intrusion into the Green Belt south of the City was "objectionable". He continued: "I fail to see how the development will be sustainable" in terms of location and infrastructure.

 

He said the proposal to build on the Green Belt south of Grenoble Road was being imposed on the local community by central Government through an "undemocratic planning process". "Democracy has to be put back at the heart of the planning process" he said and power has to be returned to local communities so that they have a say over decisions in their area.

If the Conservative Party wins the election, John Howell promised that there would be a "bottom-up approach to planning" - where local communities, not central government, would have a much stronger say in housing numbers and location of development. He said the Conservative Party would demolish the Government's Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) - a system which has "imposed housing numbers regardless of local need and feelings" and "which has not worked."

It is expected that the South East Plan, due to be announced this month by the Housing Minister, Hazel Blears, will endorse the review of the Green Belt south of the City and would require an increase in the number of houses to be built in Oxfordshire by 2026.

 

CPRE will continue to challenge both the urban extension into the Green Belt and any further increase in housing imposition by the Government.

 

Helena Whall

Campaign Manager, CPRE Oxfordshire

April 2009

 

The start of the walk from Shotover to Horspath.

 

The speakers and walkers in Horspath Village Hall.

Seated at the table - Ian Scargill, John Howell MP & Elizabeth Gillespie.



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