Oxfordshire Green Belt Study released

Hulton Park

25th November 2015

The Oxfordshire Growth Board has published the results of the Oxfordshire Green Belt Study it commissioned with no public involvement or opportunity for comment. The Study found that all of the land within the area fulfills at least one of the purposes of the Green Belt.

The Oxfordshire Growth Board is overseeing joint work to identify ways to accommodate the astronomically high housing growth they are proposing for Oxfordshire (100,000 houses, the equivalent of two new Oxfords by 2031!). As part of this work, Oxfordshire councils have, for the first time, commissioned a study to examine the Oxford Green Belt.

The Oxfordshire Green Belt Study, according to the Cherwell District Council Press Release, is “not proposing changes to any part of the Green Belt, but instead looks to examine the existing Green Belt against the five purposes of Green Belt that are set out in legislation. It provides a comprehensive picture of how well the Green Belt, a belt largely unchanged since it was established in the 1970s, is serving the people of Oxfordshire.”

However, it is clear that our local authorities intend to use the Study to consider ‘the extent to which some existing Green Belt land could be used to accommodate sustainable forms, patterns and types of new development.’

In other words, the Study will be utilised by Councils when they come to review their Local Plans in determining where in the Green Belt they might put additional homes to meet Oxford’s ‘unmet need’ (identifed by the Oxfordshire Growth Board last week as approximately 15,000 homes, to be spread over the four Districts).

CPRE Oxfordshire’s Michael Tyce commented: 

“The Green Belt Study is an ill-advised waste of scarce public money and its only effect is to undermine the Green Belt, contrary to the government policies it itself refers to, and to the wish of the overwhelming majority of the public to keep it intact.

“Although our local authorities have clearly commissioned this Study to identify bits of the Green Belt they can build on, the Study warns them (correctly) that it cannot be used for that purpose. It states: ‘the relatively poor performance of land against Green Belt purposes is not, of itself, an exceptional circumstance that would justify release of the land from the Green Belt.’

“In any case, the Study found no piece of land which they considered failed to make a contribution to the key purposes of the Green Belt (apart from a small area in the built-up part of Berinsfield).  The land South of Grenoble Road, the key expansion target for the City Council for at least twenty years, was rated high (very valuable) against the key function of the Green Belt of protecting open countryside from urban sprawl, and scored well on other criteria.”

According to the Study, the key founding objectives of the Oxford Green Belt were to ‘protect the special character of Oxford and its Landscape Setting’, ‘check the growth of Oxford and prevent ribbon development and urban sprawl’ and ‘prevent the coalescence of settlements’.

The Oxfordshire Growth Board has subsequently said that the Study’s use in relation to Local Plans will be driven ‘by the extent to which, if at all the local planning authorities wish to reflect the findings of the study in their local plan examinations’.

This seems to imply local authorities still have the power to ignore it. In reality, we fear that the threat of the legal ‘duty to co-operate’ (which has replaced strategic regional and county planning), the City’s expansionist ambitions, and the bribe of a Government New Homes Bonus (£4,000 for every new house built) risks over-whelming good decision-making.

CPRE believes that building on the Green Belt would not solve the affordable housing crisis, but would damage the countryside, the surrounding villages and the setting and historic character of Oxford itself.   

Government policy says that the Green Belt should not be used for unmet housing need and three quarters of the public want to see it protected. (See: CPRE Oxfordshire Public Survey on the Green Belt, April 2015.)  

Time for our local planning authorities to start listening!


Find out more

What are the five purposes of the Green Belt?

View an interactive map of the Oxford Green Belt

Read: ‘Green Belt myths: CPRE’s guide to what you need to know‘.


CPRE Oxfordshire, 26 November