Oxford Green Belt more valued now than 10 years ago

View of Oxford with trees in the foreground

20th June 2024

Ten years ago we commissioned research into the Green Belt which showed that over 70% of Oxfordshire wanted it to remain undeveloped. This year we replicated the survey with a local research consultancy to see how opinion might have changed and were enthused to see that, in that time, support for the Green Belt has actually increased to over 80%, regardless of whether respondents lived in town or country.

Our director, Helen Marshall, says “I am sure this reflects the fact that as it comes under more and more pressure, the benefit of keeping it undeveloped is more apparent and the need to fight to do so, as CPRE has always done, is more obvious”.

The Green Belt around Oxford was created to maintain nearby open countryside, protect the historic city, and prevent urban sprawl. But it has come under increasing threat with nearly 20,000 houses now coming forward on former Green Belt land around Oxford and several industrial-scale solar farms also permitted or in the pipeline.

But with a general election fast upon us, are the main parties listening?

  • Under the Conservatives, the government’s own data shows there was a “62% increase in the loss of Green Belt land since 2013 with 315 hectares lost in 2016-2017 alone”, despite their promises to protect it. Their current manifesto says they will protect the Green Belt from ‘uncontrolled development’.  
  • Labour says that it will designate some Green Belt land as ‘Grey Belt’ and that “The release of lower quality ‘grey belt’ land will be prioritised”.  However, this only incentivises landowners to downgrade the quality of their land and ignores existing rules that already allow previously developed land in the Green Belt to be used again.
  • The Green Belt goes unmentioned in the Liberal Democrat and Reform manifestos, so they can’t be held to their word, whatever it may be.
  • The Green Party says it will “seek to strengthen and prevent any rollback of existing protections of the Green Belt”, recognising that it “wasn’t established only to protect nature sites… but also to prevent urban sprawl“.
  • The Social Democratic Party says ‘Private sector housing development on greenbelt or high-grade agricultural land will be prohibited’ but does not mention public sector housing.

There are no second chances with Green Belt land. Once it is gone, it is gone for ever. CPRE will always fight to keep Green Belt land open and undeveloped, as the vast majority of Oxfordshire people want.

If you’re concerned about how your future MP might treat the Green Belt, make sure you sign up to come along to our Countryside and Environment hustings on July 1st to ask your questions.

Take a look at our election page to find out about other hustings in the county, and to get ideas for questions to ask.