‘Cherwell District Council stands Green Belt policy on its head in revised Local Plan’ warns CPRE
This week saw the publication of Cherwell’s revised Local Plan for the period 2011-2031. The Council’s recently adopted Local Plan has been reviewed in light of Oxford's ‘unmet housing need’. As its contribution, Cherwell is being asked to accommodate an additional 4,400 homes (over and above that allocated in its Local Plan for Cherwell).
The Plan proposes an additional 4,400 houses for the District, with 3,990 to be built in the Oxford Green Belt (see site list and map below). The remainder are to be built at Woodstock on the edge of the Green Belt.
Government Policy requires development in the Green Belt to be the very last resort, only to be considered if there is no alternative. Cherwell has stood that Policy on its head by making building in the Green Belt its very first choice, rejecting what it accepts were reasonable alternatives.
Cherwell says that building as close to Oxford as possible trumps all other considerations. Since Oxford is surrounded by Green Belt, that has led them to select Green Belt sites that by their very nature are designed to prevent urban sprawl and coalescence of settlements.
It is those few fields the Council plans to build on, flatly contrary to Green Belt Policy, and the known wishes of the overwhelming majority of its electorate. Cherwell's adopted Local Plan itself states, “The Oxford Green Belt was designated to restrain development pressures which could damage the character of Oxford City and its heritage through increased activity, traffic and the outward sprawl of the urban area” (Policy ESD14).
Responding to the publication of the draft Local Plan, CPRE Oxfordshire’s Director, Helen
Marshall said, “If the Council gets away with this plan, it will also, again contrary to Green Belt Policy, cause the merger of Yarnton and Begbroke into Kidlington and expose Kidlington itself to being engulfed by the predatory City Council which has sought to subsume it for at least thirty years.
“And also, by declaring that proximity to Oxford is itself an exceptional reason to build on the Green Belt which surrounds the City, fundamentally undermines its very purpose, risking opening the whole Green Belt to development.” Helen Marshall continued, “CPRE is opposed in principle to the release of Green Belt land – as is national planning Policy. A very strong case therefore has to be made to establish the exceptional circumstances required for the release of Green Belt land. The Cherwell Plan goes nowhere near making such a case; Cherwell’s electorate strongly supports retention of Green Belt land, as does Government Policy.
“We believe there are a number of reasonable alternatives. The houses to satisfy Oxford’s ‘unmet need’ targeted at the Cherwell Green Belt could not only, on the Council’s own admission, be sustainably built elsewhere in the District on other sites, or by increasing the density of build on existing sites, but also, at least to a considerable extent, within the City itself.
“Failing that, if there were genuinely no available option other than release of Green Belt, national Policy indicates that Cherwell would be expected to decline to do so and require other Councils to co-operate in meeting the unmet need Cherwell itself cannot satisfy.”
Proposed sites for development
Cherwell District Council’s Local Plan Part 1 Review proposes the allocation of 4,400 houses: 3,990 sites in the Oxford Green Belt and 400 at Woodstock. North Oxford: Policy PR6a – Land East of Oxford Road 650 Policy PR6b – Land West of Oxford Road 530 Policy PR6c – Land at Frieze Farm (reserved site for replacement Golf Course) Kidlington: Policy PR7a – Land South East of Kidlington 230 Policy PR7b – Land at Stratfield Farm 100 Begbroke: Policy PR8 – Land East of the A44 1,950 Yarnton: Policy PR9 – Land West of Yarnton 530 Woodstock: Policy PR10 – Land South East of Woodstock 410 Total: 4,400 houses (3,390 in the Green Belt)