PLANS to remove land from the Green Belt to expand a North Oxford science park development have been criticised.
Oxford City Council is planning to develop land north of Wolvercote and south of the A34 to create the Northern Gateway development. This will include up to 90,000 sqm of business space and up to 500 homes.
But to do so it is planning to strip 7.5 hectares of land between Wolvercote and the A40 – north of the Oxford Hotel – of its protected status within the Oxford Green Belt.
At a public meeting in Wolvercote Village Hall, organised by the Oxfordshire branch for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, planning consultant Mike Gilbert outlined the group’s objections to the proposals in the Northern Gateway Area Action Plan (AAP).
He said: “A lot more detailed work needs to be carried out to justify the scale of development proposed.
“The area action plan must be compliant with the core strategy and there is a big question mark over its compliance. This policy needs to be amended.”
The city council’s core strategy allocated the Northern Gateway site for development in 2010 – and at the time the government planning inspector who approved the strategy said a small-scale review of the Green Belt could be done.
But Mr Gilbert said this should only happen to allow the existing scheme to go ahead – not to allow the city council to develop a bigger scheme. Initial plans for the development suggested it could accommodate up to 200 homes.
At the meeting on Thursday, Ian Scargill, of the Oxfordshire Green Belt Network, said: “Over the years there has been steady erosion of the Green Belt because of what the local authorities wanted to do with it.
“It is smaller now than it was in the 1950s when it was created to limit the growth of Oxford.”
A report on the Green Belt in the area put together by the city council recommends removing the land from its protected status despite 73 per cent of respondents in a consultation asking for it to be preserved.
A consultation on the AAP – to be submitted to the Secretary of State later this year – ends on Monday and will be considered at a public inquiry in January.
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