CPRE Oxon urges Councillors to reject Cherwell Local Plan

Hulton Park

24th February 2020

In a letter CPRE asks Cherwell Councillors to agree with the Secretary of State on a previous Green Belt decision and reject the amended Local Plan.

Sovereign Councils have considerable latitude in interpreting as they choose Government Policy on preserving – or in this case not preserving – the Green Belt. Even at this late stage we ask you to reconsider whether Green Belt land should be sacrificed, especially where there is no justification for doing so.

Opinion research shows conclusively that 75% of your residents and of Oxfordshire as a whole believe that Green Belt land should not be built over – indeed 66% see housing development as the greatest threat.

Oxford’s unmet need – the ostensible reason – is not the need of current Oxford residents but the hypothetical future requirement of people who may be attracted to the area over the next twenty years by allowing Oxford to grow unchecked – overturning years of County Structure Planning where Oxford was contained, the Green Belt protected, and development directed to the places in the County where it was needed.

It is true that your Council’s ill-advised and reckless plan has been approved by an Inspector, but that does not make it compulsory. In any case Inspectors are fallible and their decisions can be overturned.

That was the case with the Secretary of State’s Burley decision in relation to the Green Belt last year of which your officers do not appear to have fully grasped the significance.

Whilst a Government Inspector had approved development in the Bradford Green Belt, the Secretary intervened to overturn his decision. He overturned it because:

– it would contravene Green Belt Policy by leading to the merger of settlements – and no example of merger could be starker than your Plan to close the Kidlington Gap;

– the land to be released did not have clear defensible boundaries – which yours at Kidlington lack – making it a threat to the integrity of the Green Belt as a whole

– it encroached on the countryside and, generally, flouted three out of five purposes of the Green Belt.

It was therefore by definition unsustainable.

The table (using information from Cherwell’s Land Use Consultants report) shows how the Secretary of State’s decision applies to your proposed sites.

Although as your officers say Burley was a Planning Application not a Local Plan Review, the Secretary of State specifically stated in his written decision that the site would also be unacceptable as part of a Local Plan release for the same reasons.

He stated that it was so unsustainable because of the gravity of these Green Belt breaches that it not only overrode housing need but that it was not even necessary to go through the process (Para 11 of the NPPF) of balancing the need against the harm.

We ask you to agree with the Secretary of State and reject the amended Local Plan on Monday.

The reasons for preserving the Green Belt especially at crucial points like the Kidlington Gap are self-evident; the public will to preserve the Green Belt intact is clear and decisive; because of the high numbers and Green Belt sites the last elections toppled the administrations in the Vale and SODC and would have done in Cherwell if all of the seats had been up for election; Councils are sovereign and can and should take note of residents views on the Green Belt. Oxford’s unmet need is not a reality but a hypothesis and the notional jobs that will create it could as easily be provided elsewhere. Inspector’s decisions are not binding and in any case can be overturned.