Hands off Our Green Belt!

The Oxford Green Belt Network is now urging its members to write to the Prime Minister. Why now?

 
  • The Green Belt was established around the City of Oxford 50 years ago to protect the special character and setting of the Oxford, and prevent any urban sprawl spreading outwards to engulf the surrounding villages of rural Oxfordshire. It has achieved these aims very successfully, and polls indicate that 80% of people enthusiastically support it.
 
  • Because of this support for the Green Belt from the people who live in Oxfordshire, policies to protect it from any future building development were agreed in the adopted Local Plans of all the District Councils, in the adopted Oxfordshire County Structure Plan, and in the draft South East Plan, which was produced as a result of years of public consultation undertaken by the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA).
 
  • On July 11th 2007 the Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly re-affirmed his government’s commitment to "continue robustly to protect land designated as green belt.". People in Oxford and Oxfordshire were reassured by this promise, as it is well known that a group of commercial building developers, backed by Oxford City Council, had strongly lobbied government to redraw the boundary of the Oxford Green Belt to permit them to build a mixed-use urban extension to the city in the Green Belt. Affordable housing would be only a minor part of such an urban extension, and the benefits of the Green Belt would be lost for ever for the residents of the City’s own nearby housing estates, those who visit and work in the already congested historic City centre, and those who live in the surrounding villages.
 
  • However a very serious threat to the Green Belt has re-emerged in the report of the government’s own Planning Inspectors at the Examination in Public of the draft South East Plan, which includes some very controversial statements, which are inconsistent with the Prime Minister’s statement of government policy:
 
  • They wrote that "…too much weight was given to the views of existing residents…" in the draft South East Plan. – So we must ask, whatever has happened to democracy when property developers seem to be getting their own way with our government?
 
  • The government Inspectors have astonished all the people who had contributed to the development of the Green Belt policy in the draft South East Plan by ignoring their democratically expressed wishes, and by specifically recommending a "selective Green Belt review", and by their support for the developers’ proposals to build a mixed-use urban extension of at least 4,000 dwellings in the Oxford Green Belt.
 
  • Early in 2008 Communities Minister Hazel Blears will announce her own proposed modifications to the South East Plan. Will she be influenced by the developers, or will she listen to the people of Oxford and Oxfordshire who want to protect their Green Belt? Her decision will have profound effects on the outcome of the next elections.
 

The Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Gordon Brown is the only person who can ensure that government policy to protect the Green Belt is kept on course, so that is why we are writing to him urgently for his re-assurance, now. An open letter to the Prime Minister from the Oxford Green Belt Network is printed below, but one letter is not enough, so write your own, in your own words, and send it off today! It would help our campaign if you would email a copy of your letter to webmaster@oxfordgreenbelt.net.

© Oxford Green Belt Network, November 2007



Open letter from OGBN to the Prime Minister:

 

To the Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Gordon Brown,

10 Downing Street,

London,

SW1A 2AA

 

Dear Prime Minister,

 

A request for your personal re-assurance about your government’s Green Belt policy

 

Your statement to Members of Parliament on 11th July 2007, re-affirming your government’s commitment to "continue robustly to protect land designated as Green Belt" was warmly welcomed by the majority of people in the City of Oxford and in the surrounding Oxfordshire villages, who value the maintenance of the Oxford Green Belt over the past 50 years as an outstandingly successful planning policy to protect the environment of this historic city, and for its support of Oxford’s specialised economy which depends on the maintenance of this high quality environment.

 

Building developers and landowners have lobbied your government for several years to build a mixed-use urban extension to the City of Oxford in the Oxford Green Belt, which would be in total contradiction of all the locally agreed planning policies, and contrary to your government’s policy as you explained it on 11th July this year. It would also be contrary to the Green Belt policy of the draft South East Plan, on which your Communities and Local Government Minister The Rt. Hon. Hazel Blears MP will soon publish her proposed modifications. Your government’s Planning Inspectors, reporting on the Examination in Public of the draft South East Plan, have very surprisingly recommended the developers’ own proposals for building an urban extension of 4,000 dwellings in the Oxford Green Belt and a selective review of the boundaries of this Green Belt in preparation for this. While these are merely recommendations, which the Minister can accept or ignore, they are in direct conflict with your government’s stated policy on protecting Green Belts from development. Everyone is aware of the shortage of affordable housing, but the urgent need for this can be met by building on brown field sites, including the previously developed land on some of the 550 government owned sites which you have yourself identified for their potential earlier this year. Any urban extension of Oxford City built in the Green Belt will have serious adverse consequences for future sustainable planning in this historic city and for the economy of the central Oxfordshire region, and much needed affordable housing would crucially constitute only a relatively minor part of such an unwelcome development. There are other better ways to provide the necessary affordable housing, protect the high quality environment, and stimulate the local economy, as outlined in the draft South East Plan.

 

We therefore ask you to be aware of the very deep and widespread disappointment which will be felt throughout the City of Oxford and in Oxfordshire if your government now decides to abandon or modify its policy on Green Belts, and we ask you to write to us in reply, to reassure us that government policy today remains unchanged from your own policy commitment, made on 11th July 2007, to continue protecting Green Belts.

 

Yours sincerely,

 
 
 

Chairman and Committee of the Oxford Green Belt Network

November 2007


This letter is available as a Word document to download. Right click on this link and then choose "Save target as" or "Save link as" from the drop-down menu.

More information is available here: "Why the GREEN BELT must be saved. The need to Save the Green Belt, and what you can do to save it" (PDF file 89Kb)