SODC Stabs Green Belt in the Back

Hulton Park

6th December 2018

Once it’s biggest supporter, South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) has turned against the Green Belt. CPRE believes the South Oxfordshire Local Plan will include all sites in the previous, aborted 2017 version plus additional major sites within the Green Belt. Amongst the new greenbelt incursions will be Grenoble Road, Northfields, Oxford Brookes and a site north of the city on the ring road.

In recent years the Government has repeatedly reaffirmed its support for the Green Belt. Government policy states that “the fundamental aim of Green Belt policy is to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open”. The Green Belt was specifically created to check unrestricted sprawl; prevent neighbouring towns merging; safeguard the countryside from encroachment; preserve the setting and character of historic towns and assist in urban regeneration.

Helen Marshall, Director of CPRE Oxfordshire says: “South Oxfordshire is opening the gateway to urban sprawl which, once the principle has been breached, could be unstoppable. CPRE will do its best to prevent SODC subverting the principles on which the Green Belt was founded and at the Enquiry in Public will seek to persuade the Inspector to strike all Green Belt sites out of the Plan.”

SODC’s proposed housing numbers are far in excess of any forecast of housing need, and the loss of Green Belt to accommodate some of them is entirely a policy choice by SODC. The proposed housing numbers themselves are at least 1,500 above the notorious SHMA forecast which is itself 3,000 houses above the Government’s own assessment of housing need in South Oxfordshire1. It is CPRE’s view that Local Councils should obviously provide the houses that are needed but should not wilfully exceed actual need, thereby minimising damage to the countryside and environment we all treasure. The unspoilt nature of our local area is a key driver of Oxfordshire’s success. The South Oxfordshire Local Plan now includes 10,000 houses in the Green Belt with allocations in addition to those already planned at Culham, Berinsfield and Wheatley.

Regarding the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway the Plan states: “South Oxfordshire will be undertaking a review of its Local Plan once both Oxford City and South Oxfordshire have adopted their plans and the implications of the Oxford to Cambridgecorridor, including the route of a proposed 
Expressway between the two cities, are clearer” (Draft Scrutiny Version South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2011-2034). 

CPRE agrees that routing the Expressway across the Green Belt and open countryside of South Oxfordshire would be absolutely devastating for our environment and local communities and should not be contemplated in any circumstances.  However, both the Expressway and the associated development of 300,000 houses, doubling Oxfordshire’s housing stock, will have a detrimental effect right across Oxfordshire, whichever eventual route is chosen.

The Oxford-Cambridge growth corridor proposals require a complete re-think, informed by proper parliamentary scrutiny, strategic environmental assessment and full public consultation. Until such measures are in place, we expect our local authorities to be proactive in resisting any Government imposition of the proposals.

Visit the South Oxfordshire District Council Website to read the Draft Scrutiny Version of the South Oxfordshire Local Plan 2011-2034 and associated documents.

The Office for National Statistics 2016 subnational population projection data: The Office for National Statistics Population Projections for Local Authorities table 2
The Strategic Housing Marketing Assessment for Oxfordshire: GL Hearn, April 2014, Oxfordshire Strategic Housing Market Assessment, Final Report