June 2017 - The Green Belt and Oxford's "unmet housing
The District Councils around Oxford are at different stages in the
production of new Local Plans. As part of this exercise they have been
asked to build some 15,000 houses for Oxford City to address Oxford's
claimed "unmet housing need". Many of these are likely to be in the Green
Belt. Cherwell DC suggests building nearly 4,000 houses in its sector of
the Green Belt, mainly to the north of the City and around Kidlington,
Yarnton and Begbroke. Vale of White Horse DC also proposes building in
the Green Belt at Dalton Barracks, whilst South Oxfordshire DC suggests
building in the Green Belt at Culham and Berinsfield.
Together, these plans represent an unprecedented amount of proposed
development in the Green Belt, development that will have a huge impact
on the life of local communities in the years to come as well as a massive
and permanent loss of valued open space. The Oxford Green Belt Network
believes that this scale of development in the Green Belt is quite unjustified
and is the result of Oxford City Council using its own land for more
profitable business uses and creating more jobs in the City rather than
using this land for housing its own population. Oxford Green Belt Network
will therefore take an active part in all the inquiries that look into the new
Local Plans and their proposals for the Green Belt.
April 2017 - The Oxford Green Belt Network has responded to the
consultation on the Government's White Paper, "Fixing a broken housing
market". To read our response please see this link. We
welcome the Government's statement in the White Paper that it intends to
protect the Green Belt but any such commitment needs to be followed up
with policies to ensure that firm and positive means of protecting the Green
Belt are actually in place. Our response draws attention to what we see
as weaknesses in what is being proposed.
July 2016 - CPRE Oxfordshire has launched a new campaign to
Save the Oxford Green Belt and Protect Historic Oxford.
See the Campaign webpage. See also the Campaign CPRE Oxon Press
CPRE Green Belt
Campaign Poster, and
Map of Threats to
Green Belt, all in PDF format.
Oxford Green Belt Network Consultations
We will publish some of the many consultation documents prepared by the OGBN.
Current Concerns - August 2013
The Oxford Green Belt Network supports the protection of the openness of all parts of the Oxford Green Belt, so it is now very pleased to provide some financial support for CPRE Oxfordshire's Save Port Meadow Campaign, the largest open space within the City of Oxford, where the open views to the classic skyline of the spires of Oxford have been blocked by the construction this year of 8 blocks of University student flats in Roger Dudman Way. How this travesty of bad town planning came about is a complex and scandalous story which is best told by Sushila Dhall the leader of this community campaign, but in order to attempt to put right this wrong, CPRE Oxfordshire has sought a judicial review in the High Court of the City Council's grant of planning permission. On 9th July Oxford City Council confirmed that it would set up its own Working Group to assess whether the planning considerations were adequately assessed, particularly one may assume, as it had decided that a preliminary Environmental Impact Assessment of these buildings was unnecessary as it surprisingly deemed this not to be a sensitive area.
The comparison of original classic view from Port Meadow towards the Oxford skyline before the unwelcome construction of the flats with the view in February 2013 and taken from the CPRE's website, makes it clear in the words of the Oxford author Philip Pullman that these buildings represent "destructive, brutal, ugly vandalism" and he said that the City Council ought to be ashamed.
It is almost impossible to convey via a website to be viewed on a small computer screen the enormity of this public open space and the immense openness of Port Meadow, but there are some wonderful panoramic landscape photos by Adrian Arbib and classic films about the public use of Port Meadow to be found at www.portmeadow.org Alternatively, simply enter "Port Meadow Oxford images" into the Google search engine to view another gallery of photos. To have destroyed the openness and beauty of such an important part of the Green Belt is indeed vandalism, which now needs to be rectified.
Current Concerns - Winter/Spring 2013
Be very afraid !
The City Council has made a proposal under the Government's City Deal regime, without any consultation at all, for a City led quango Board to take over all over the Green Belt and beyond with “streamlined planning procedures” for “economic development”. View the City Deal proposal here.The City's ambitions in relation to the Green Belt are well known, and its expansion plans going back twenty years are well documented.
We have expressed our concerns to the Cabinet Office - who are assessing the proposal - in a letter dated
19 January 2013, which you can read here.
Current Concerns - Summer/Autumn 2012
"Spread development" - Letter to the Oxford Times on Thursday 15th November 2012 from Michael Tyce. Read it here.
Oxford Green Belt Network was pleased that some of the concerns we, and others, expressed were taken into account when the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework was published by the Government.
In particular, we welcome the statement that the presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply in Green Belts (see footnote 9 of paragraph 14 of the NPPF).
We would, however, have liked to have seen a positive statement, like there was in PPG.2, that quality of landscape is not relevant to the inclusion of land within a Green Belt or to its continued protection. Green Belt is about stopping urban sprawl but landowners and developers still ignore that and claim that Green Belt land that is not beautiful can be sacrificed.
Current Concerns - Autumn 2011
National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
We have responded to this Government consultation on the future of the planning system, drawing attention to what we see as the reduced protection that it gives to Green Belts. See our response (PDF format) .
Other responses can be found from Waterstock, from Horspath PC, in a letter to the Oxford Times, 6th October 2011, and from CPRE Oxfordshire.
Some views from the local press -
22nd September 2011 - Oxford Times front page on 'Plans free-for-all will ruin villages'.
29th September 2011 - Oxford Times front page on 'Bid to redraw city's boundaries rejected'.
Core Strategies and Site Allocations
We are involved in the hearings into South Oxfordshire District Council's Core Strategy and have recently responded to Oxford City Council's consultation on its Sites Allocations - Preferred Options. For more information on these concerns, see our August 2011 Newsletter.
Current Concerns - July 2011
Oxford City Council's Sites and Housing
We have commented on Oxford City Council's Sites and Housing DPD - Preferred Options. There are 8 sites identified in the Green Belt and
we are pleased that most of these are not allocated, especially those important meadows in the Cherwell Valley north and south of Marston
Ferry Road which are part of an important wildlife corridor. But we are opposed to a cemetery near Hill View Farm, Marston, which would be
quite out of place here. We believe the land at Oxford Road, Horspath, should be reserved for sports use and any idea of wind turbines
SODC Core Strategy
We have appeared, with CPRE, at the hearings into South Oxfordshire District Council's Core Strategy. We were opposed to the proposals in
this plan to take more land out of the Green Belt at Wheatley and to remove Green Belt status from Berinsfield. Our case was that this is not the best approach to finding sites for affordable housing at Wheatley, and that regeneration can take place at Berinsfield without taking the village out of the Green Belt. The inspector has issued a preliminary report on the hearings so far and we are pleased that he agrees with us about Wheatley, that further development here would result in sprawl and encroachment into the countryside. However, he has stated that exceptional circumstances exist to support a Green Belt review at Berinsfield.
Begbroke science park
We opposed the new road linking Begbroke science park to the A44, now approved, and fear that this will open up the surrounding land to
development. This area, between Begbroke, Yarnton and Kidlington has great amenity value for the local population and should not be lost.
We have commented recently, amongst other matters, on the following: on plans for a recycling centre at Langford Lane, Kidlington, which we
believe should have been on an industrial estate, not on Green Belt land; on unauthorized development in connection with vehicle recovery near
Wheatley service station; on views from Greyhound Meadow of the proposed development at St Clement's car park in the City; on the Barton
Area Action Plan and its likely impact on the Bayswater Valley and adjoining countryside; on the proposal for an even taller and more intrusive
telecom mast at Port Meadow; on floodlighting plans at the University sports ground off Iffley Road; and on plans at a number of farm sites in
Garsington, Waterperry and Stanton St John.
Current Concerns - May 2010
Sports grounds are an acceptable use of land in the Green Belt but only if they do not involve large pavilions and intrusive structures including high floodlighting. We have recently expressed concerns over increased floodlighting at Banbury Road North and over plans for a rebuilt clubhouse at the rugby ground in North Hinksey.
The plan for a gypsy settlement alongside the A.34 north of Kidlington has been withdrawn. It would have been in open countryside and the site, next to a very busy road, was very unsuitable for any residential development.
It is a sad fact that dairy farms continue to go out of business and this has a knock-on effect on the Green Belt as alternative uses for land and buildings are proposed. We have recently been involved over plans for such sites at Hampton Poyle and at Cuddesdon.
Ruined Manor House
There is a plan to build a new house within the ruins of the Elizabethan manor house at Hampton Gay. We are concerned at the effect this would have on the surrounding site which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Our preference is to see the ruins cleared of overgrown vegetation and stabilised to prevent further deterioration.
Current Concerns - August 2009
We are pleased that the government has decided that the proposed ecotown, Weston Otmoor, should not go ahead. Almost the whole of the site was greenfield and a quarter of it was in the Oxford Green Belt. The alternative scheme, for North West Bicester, should enable the town of Bicester to achieve a higher level of services and employment opportunities and so take some pressure off Oxford and its Green Belt surroundings.
South East Plan
There have been a number of legal challenges to the proposed urban extension south of Oxford, a scheme which was added to the South East Plan by the government despite it being wholly within the Green Belt. The outcome of these challenges is awaited with interest.
The corridor of Green Belt which follows the Cherwell Valley brings the countryside into the heart of Oxford and it is enjoyed by all those who walk there or punt on the river. But the rural atmosphere of this important corridor is threatened by proposals for housing development in the City's Core Strategy and by land sales currently taking place.
The Oxford Canal
The banks of the Oxford Canal are being increasingly taken up by house boats. In addition there are major plans for one or more marinas alongside the canal near Yarnton. These go far beyond what is acceptable in the Green Belt.
Minerals and Waste
In the absence still of an overall County policy for minerals and waste, we are faced with a steady stream of applications for mineral extraction and waste treatment projects in the Green Belt. We support recycling but believe that large waste processing plants should be on landfill sites or industrial estates, not on greenfield sites. We also believe that the Green Belt will be damaged by the opening up of new gravel extraction sites and are anxious about the effect of existing ones on the water table close to protected wildflower meadows.
The Northern Gateway
In its Core Strategy, Oxford City Council is proposing a major development on land in the Wolvercote and Pear Tree area north of the city. To be called the Northern Gateway, it is intended primarily for employment uses and perhaps for accommodating emergency services. Parts of the site are in the Green Belt and the rest was taken out of the Green Belt as recently as 1997. The matter will be debated at the resumed inquiry into the Core Strategy on 10th and 11th September 2009.
The railway company has put forward a plan to upgrade the existing line to Bicester and link it into the main line to London from that town. The project involves a parkway station where the present grain silo is at Water Eaton. This site is in the Green Belt so the implications need careful study
Oxford Flood Risk
The Environment Agency has carried out a consultation into plans to alleviate the flood risk, especially to the western parts of Oxford and to nearby villages. Whilst we support the overall aim of reducing flooding, we have reservations about the idea of making a new river channel across the Hinksey meadows and prefer measures that involve regular maintenance of existing waterways.
Schemes for floodlighting sports facilities in the Green Belt continue to be put forward. Some of these involve excessive amounts of very intrusive lighting which is damaging to the rural character of the Green Belt.
Advertising on Roundabouts
We have noted a growing tendency to use roundabouts for raising money through advertising. Whilst we have nothing against sponsorship of landscaping on roundabouts, we object to large boards advertising the companies involved which are a visual distraction and add to roadside clutter in the Green Belt.
Current Concerns - October 2008
22 October 2008 - At a meeting of the Oxford City Council Executive Board, the Council made public their plans to set up a joint venture to develop land south of Grenoble Road with Magdalen College and Thames Water to ensure the early delivery of the plan. Read or download the document discussed (PDF 260 Kb, please be patient - this large file may take several seconds to appear) at that meeting.
Current Concerns - April 2008
Two schemes for so-called "ecotowns", both in the Oxford Green Belt, were submitted to the government. One of them, at Shipton quarry, has been rejected. The other one, at Weston-on-the-Green, has been included on the shortlist of 15 from which the government will later in the year select ten.
About a third of the site of "Weston Otmoor" is in the Green Belt, and a part of this is an area of Special Scientific Interest. Some 15,000 dwellings are proposed and it would be a new town in all but name. Aside from the destruction of Green Belt land, the scheme conflicts with existing plans at regional, county, district and parish levels. The site is close to Bicester where it would seriously compromise approved plans to improve services and infrastructure in that town. We believe Weston Otmoor should be dropped from the list of ecotowns.
All who love the surroundings of Oxford will be horrified by the news that the City Council is working with a private company to install giant wind turbines on 4 sites, all in the Green Belt. The sites are at Chilswell Farm, Cutteslowe Park, Oxford Road Horspath, and Sandford Brake. For more insight into City Council thinking see:
Oxford City Council Executive Board meeting of 4 February 2008 (PDF 230 Kb),
Oxford City Council Executive Board meeting of 17 March 2008 (PDF 261 Kb), and,
Oxford City Council Executive Board meeting of 21 April 2008 (PDF 435 Kb).
We do not believe that inland windfarms are economically effective and the turbines, if erected, would harm cherished views and add to clutter from pylons and overhead wires in Oxford’s Green Belt setting. The Oxford Green Belt is not the place for wind turbines, least of all the Hinksey Hills and Shotover. They would do great harm for very little benefit and should not be allowed to go ahead.
Despite having its application rejected by the City Council, the University of Oxford is persisting with its proposal to erect a huge book depository at Osney Mead on the western side of Oxford. A public inquiry into the plans is due to begin on 1st July. The book warehouse would be enormous and, we believe, would spoil for ever the classic views of Oxford's towers and spires from the Hinksey Hills and Meadows. These views, immortalized by writers and artists are too precious to lose to a building for which there are alternative sites. We hope the inquiry, at which the Oxford Green Belt Network will give evidence, will result in the final rejection of this very damaging scheme.
Current Concerns - July 2009
Oxford Core Strategy
Oxford Green Belt Network welcomes the deletion from this Plan of all reference to an urban extension south of Oxford. But we are opposed to development at the "Northern Gateway", especially on two areas of Green Belt land included in this development site. We expect to take part in the resumed public inquiry which may be in July 2010
We accept that the proposed Oxford to London line via Bicester will bring advantages to travellers by rail. But at Water Eaton, where a parkway station is proposed, we do not wish to see industrial development spill out into the Green Belt. So we are opposed to any attempt to relocate the aggregates depot and to build a waste processing centre on nearby Green Belt land. We expect to take part in the public inquiry which is likely in the Autumn of 2010.
We remain committed to opposing wind turbines in the Oxford Green Belt. We are therefore strongly opposed to the two giant turbines proposed at Cutteslowe Park and Horspath. Such turbines need huge subsidies, only work when the wind blows so need back up power, and they destroy much loved views of our Green Belt countryside.
July 2009 - The Oxford Green Belt Network took part in the Examination into Oxford City's Core Strategy beginning on 14th July. Here are the Statements submitted by OGBN in connection with the
19 April 2009 - Oxford Green Belt Way Walk and Rally
October 2008 - South East Plan
Over 100 people joined the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Oxfordshire Branch, on a short walk along the Oxford Green Belt Way. Refreshments awaited them at Horspath Village Hall.
See the Rally Report here with photos, and read the speech made by Ian Scargill, Chair of OGBN, at the rally.
1 September 2008 - Why there should be no building in the Green Belt
- see the OGBN response to South Oxfordshire District Council's current consultation (PDF format 21 Kb).
16 September 2008, Letter to the Oxford Times - Is this the real truth about developers plans for the Green Belt?
23 July 2008 - Bad news for the Green Belt.
7 March 2008 - Role of the Oxford Green Belt upheld at Horspath. The Planning Inspector dismisses Oxford City's appeal to install floodlights in Horspath Sports Ground car park. It is an important judgement which recognizes that floodlighting columns add to urban sprawl and that their lighting detracts from a village's rural setting. Read the full text of the Judgement (PDF format 57 Kb).
November 2007 - Hands off our Green Belt Campaign.
FRONT PAGE SPLASH - 31 August 2007 - Setback for Green belt.