Reprieve Denied for Green Belt North of Oxford

North Oxford Golf Course Suzanne McIvor

2nd August 2021

Any hopes that campaigners had of stopping Cherwell District Council from building on the Green Belt to the north of Oxford were finally dashed by a ruling in the High Court last Friday 30 July.

Cherwell`s Local Plan Partial Review (`the Plan`) proposes to build 4,400 houses on the Green Belt around Begbroke, Kidlington and Yarnton to meet Oxford`s housing need. Ever since it was set in motion in 2015, local campaign groups have been fighting the plans for development.

In 2019, five of them formed an association – the Cherwell Development Watch Alliance (CDWA) – and took Cherwell and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to court in a last-ditch attempt to challenge the Plan. Mrs Justice Thornton`s decision to dismiss CDWA`s challenge ended six years of campaigning and widespread local representation against the Plan.

CDWA`s Claim for a Judicial Review was on two grounds, both of which failed: the acknowledged fall in the level of Oxford’s housing need and the allocation of the North Oxford golf course for development despite inadequate provision for a replacement site. In relation to housing need the judge accepted that the Inspector of Cherwell’s Plan could rely on the findings of another Inspector who examined Oxford’s Plan. On the golf course she considered that the evidence before the Inspector was sufficient for him to have made a rational decision. On both grounds she noted that, in law, Inspectors have considerable latitude to exercise their planning judgement and were not required to give detailed reasons.

A series of planning applications are now expected to be submitted on the six sites allocated for development in the Plan. These will build on Green Belt in the gaps between North Oxford, Kidlington, Gosford, Begbroke and Yarnton. The character of the area will be transformed into a northern extension of Oxford.

Cherwell is proceeding with its Plan despite what it has acknowledged was `unprecedented` public opposition at consultation stage. All four affected local parish councils, and the District Councillors representing those wards, also opposed the plan.

Linda Ward, of Kidlington Development Watch, said:

“I’m deeply saddened that Kidlington is now set to merge with Oxford and surrounding villages. The ‘growth at all costs’ policy is already ramping up more plans to cover much of our beautiful, rural county in concrete. I’m disillusioned with the whole public consultation process. The planning and legal systems have all failed us but the ultimate responsibility for ignoring opposition and adopting the Plan does not actually rest with the planning Inspector. It rests with Cherwell Council and in particular those Cherwell councillors who supported their leader Barry Wood in voting it through. The current consultation on the Oxfordshire 2050 Plan includes ominous signs that there is more to come. It will be important to tell our councillors and MPs what we think and, if they don’t listen, to vote them out.”

Helen Marshall, Director of CPRE Oxfordshire, said:

“We are hugely disappointed by this outcome, which shows the weakness of Green Belt protection, despite Government’s claims to the contrary.  There’s now 19k houses planned for the Oxford Green Belt, expanding the City by a third.   This has serious consequences for the countryside and surrounding villages and the City itself,  putting incredible pressure on already overstretched infrastructure.  The low-density executive housing that is likely to come forward will do little to tackle the need for genuinely affordable housing.  We should not be sacrificing the countryside on our doorstep in this way and we urge all those concerned by this outcome to share their views with their councillors and MP.”

Download the CDWA press release below or visit the CDWA website.