Response from Cath Arakelian (Labour Candidate for Kidlington South)
Cath Arakelian, the Labour candidate for Kidlington South has responded to our letter seeking the views of candidates for the local elections on 4 May 2017 on Cherwell District Council's proposed 4,400 housing development on the Green Belt:
Begbroke and Yarnton Green Belt Campaign
Thank you for your letter. As you know I was extremely keen for the Begbroke Council to support you in holding a public meeting which was spectacular in its attendance in January.
To answer your specific points briefly:
I believe we, as each generation, have stewardship over our countryside and a moral responsibility to protect the Green Belt both in word and deed for the benefit of subsequent generations.
I believe that the existing Begbroke residents should be able to decide how their community should develop, in what direction and for what purpose. In essence this is the point of the Neighbourhood Planning process which appears to be set aside in the rush to the summer deadline for the revision of the Local Plan. In the recent consultations, I believe the arguments for infringing the green belt around Oxford did not reach the standard of “exceptional circumstances” and were directly opposed to certain policies i.e. ED13, ED14 in the Cherwell Local Plan. I therefore totally opposed the proposed development between Oxford and Kidlington, Yarnton, Begbroke and Gosford and Water Eaton. You can see my personal submission on the CDC website.
I support the rigorous enactment of Cherwell Local Plan policies, such as ED13 and 14, and others, which specifically protect historic villages and seek to check urban sprawl.
In considering Oxford’s projected housing need, wild speculation about economic growth, and deliberate ignorance of infrastructure fragility – such as roads, is a poor basis for long term planning. I accept that local planners have to predict future need (economic and social) which means they have to work on some reasonable growth assumptions. The assumptions made by the SMART and the LEP – and subsequently enacted by the Oxford City Council - were arguably optimistic, based on figures deduced before Brexit and the General Election, and should be robustly challenged and revised. I would work towards a revision of the assumptions and press for a policy of sustainable development.
Sadly, there is no guarantee that any housing built would, in fact, be cheap enough to be bought by local people and therefore tackle Oxford’s own housing shortage. It is just as likely that by 2031 there would still be a pressing need for affordable homes despite the vandalism of an historic landscape.
Having attended the January meeting in the village hall, and the Begbroke parish council, and having now met a number of Begbroke residents on the doorstep, I find they are mostly against the proposed development. I have walked all the village and the footpaths and surrounding areas with my dog, and see what a loss the proposed coalescence of settlements would entail.
If I were representing the residents as their county councillor I would be making a robust case, within the current legal framework, against the current proposals. I will continue as a local activist, in any case, to lobby our MP, write to the Oxford Mail and Times and challenge the decision makers at CDC to protect this beautiful area from greedy developers and poor planning and derisory democratic engagement.
Do you think voters will appreciate that the relaxation of the Planning Law which countenances this type of countryside infringement, is a direct and intended consequence of Conservative and Coalition policy since 2010? Opposing this vandalism means, logically, voting Labour at this local election.
Please feel free to share this statement widely.
I shall be speaking as the Labour Party Spokesperson on Radio Oxford on this subject ( all things being equal) at around 0830/0900 this Friday 28 April 2017
The Labour Candidate
Kidlington South Division
Oxfordshire County Council
May 4 2017