It is depressing to see the city council once again trying to pursue its decades old ambition to develop in the Green Belt, where it is a major landowner.
This time, however, the strategy has been even more covert.
The Oxfordshire Strategic Economic Plan contains hugely ambitious growth plans that will significantly change the character of the county, but it has been drawn up behind closed doors with no public consultation.
The 85,000 jobs it promises to create is the fundamental reason why we are now told we need 100,000 new houses in the county in just 17 years, equivalent to a 40 per cent growth in every settlement.
Let’s be clear – these houses will not be about meeting any existing local need, but merely catering for this proposed growth. So, still no affordable housing but there goes the Green Belt (and many other greenfield sites).
We can see no justification for Oxford to be looking outside its boundaries when it has sufficient sites for development allocated within its Sites and Housing Plan which was found sound by an inspector only last year.
If the city council considers this to be out of date, it should review its Core Strategy properly, including its employment and density policies.
They should show in each case how many more houses they could accommodate by doing this.
Their current housing land assessment has been written to prove they cannot do much, throwing in a couple of juicy chunks of Green Belt to prove it.
They could do far more, and a new Core Strategy process would tease it out.
Meanwhile, let’s leave the Green Belt to do what it does best, protecting both the surrounding villages and the setting and character of Oxford itself.
Helen Marshall Director, CPRE Oxfordshire
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