City’s Green Belt is at risk like never before

The Water Eaton grain silo has been demolished to make way for Oxford Parkway Station.

Helen Marshall, director of the Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, believes the Green Belt north of Oxford is in danger of being sacrificed. Picture: OX63177 Antony Moore

City council leader Bob Price.

First published in Oxford Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

ONE of the attractions of living in Oxford is that wherever you are, you’re in proximity to rural tranquility and a busy urban centre.

But Oxford’s Green Belt is under pressure like never before – particularly to the north of the city where plans are afoot for plenty of development.

Oxford City Council plans a “northern gateway” of homes and businesses while a new train station – for which land is now being cleared for – will be built between Kidlington and Oxford.

But there have also been calls to build around Begbroke, expanding the existing university science park and bringing more homes to the area.

Could Kidlington one day end up like Botley – part of the Vale of White Horse District – and be separated from Oxford by just a thin administrative line?

And if so, would that be something the people Kidlington might want?

Kidlington’s growth in the early half of the 20th century led to it becoming the largest village in Europe but the creation of the Oxford Green Belt in the late 1950s prevented its growth to the south and stopped it from meeting Oxford in the middle.

Oxford was one of the first cities to respond to the Minister of Housing and Local Government Duncan Sandys’ suggestion in 1955 that Green Belts should be introduced to give extra protection from development within it.

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The local planning authorities at that time – Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council and Berkshire County Council – set about defining an Oxford Green Belt.

In the end its inner boundary was drawn fairly tightly around the built-up area of the city and it extended outwards for some five to six miles in every direction.

It includes the area around Kidlington but not the village itself.

But more than half a century later these boundaries are being put to the test.

Six years ago, Oxford University proposed building thousands of homes on a 368-acre greenfield site between Kidlington and Yarnton.

The city council has now begun drawing up its plans for the 100-acre Northern Gateway development to create 3,000 jobs and 200 homes and will be put on land between the A40, A34 and A44 on the cusp of the Green Belt boundary.

City council officers are also considering whether to include the site occupied by the Pear Tree services and park and ride on the other side of the A44.

Meanwhile, well within the Green Belt, Chiltern Railways is set to build Oxford Parkway station, the first new railway station to open in Oxfordshire since 1935, which will be next to the Water Eaton park and ride.

And earlier this month an independent report commissioned by Oxford University and Science Oxford concluded: “The whole of this area offers tremendous potential to create a dynamic interface between the university and corporate research facilities and creative new businesses.

“It could enable the expansion of engineering and other applied sciences and also provide much needed university-related housing.”

This would mean sacrificing large portions of the Green Belt to the north of Oxford.

Helen Marshall, the director of the Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “The point about the Green Belt is its openness and its permanence. It not only stops urban sprawl but protects the historic setting of Oxford itself.

“Unfortunately, the area of Green Belt north of Oxford is at risk of getting nibbled away as a result of a long campaign by the university and Merton College, both of which own land in the area, and a city council which is keen to set precedents for extension into the Green Belt.

“The so-called Kidlington Gap is under real pressure, but is vital in maintaining the village as a separate entity with its own character, rather than getting swallowed up by the creep of the city.

Cherwell District Council has announced a limited review of the Green Belt boundaries in this area and CPRE will strongly resist any significant changes.

“Once this countryside is lost, it cannot be replaced.”

But city council leader Bob Price, below, pointed to the economic benefits of the developments, which feature in its long-term policies for development in the area.

He said of the science park: “The opportunity to locate new housing nearby would be a big factor in attracting the scientists, engineers and technicians that will be needed for both the gateway and Begbroke developments.

“The new Water Eaton Parkway station should open the possibility of new train and ride bus services for people working in Headington and Cowley as well as the city centre and could be a significant factor in reducing car usage and congestion around Oxford.”

Cherwell District Council covers the golf course, science park and planned station. Leader Barry Wood was not available for comment.

One of the few areas of land which will remain as a buffer zone for the one mile which separates Kidlington and Oxford is the North Oxford Golf Club, owned by Oxford University Press, Exeter College and Merton College.

And both OUP and Exeter have said they have no intention of developing the 106-year-old golf club while the club itself says it is not planning on going anywhere soon.

But for the people of Kidlington the issue is literally closer to home and Kidlington Parish Council member Chris Pack says the village jealously guards its status as being separate to Oxford.

He said: “We have always been in favour of the train station and we think it is the right thing for this area and for Kidlington in particular.

“But we have not been happy with the Northern Gateway and have expressed our feelings in the past.

“We are very happy to have Oxford as our immediate neighbour and it is a very important centre of employment for a lot of people who live in Kidlington but it is very important that the Green Belt between Kidlington and North Oxford isn’t developed to protect against urban sprawl.”

Perhaps they could ask the good people of Botley whether encroachment by Oxford is a good thing or not.

Botley, which is now considered by many to be a suburb of Oxford, is administratively in the Vale of the White Horse and separated from the city only by Seacourt Stream.

Andrew Pritchard, chairman of North Hinksey Parish Council, said: “It is obviously quite convenient for people that they can live in a slightly more rural atmosphere but still be relatively close to Oxford.

“The bread has got butter on one side and jam on the other. We would like to think we get the best of both worlds.”

The benefits and disadvantages of being attatched of Oxford are hardly clear cut but the future for that stretch of Green Belt is far less clear, particularly if a review of it goes ahead.

Kidlington maybe a village now, but the dividing line between village and suburb is getting narrower and at the moment its only one mile wide.

Comments (13)

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8:42pm Thu 7 Nov 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

The CPRE expressing "fear" again - I do pity the Chairwomen of the CPRE in Oxford(shire) - they must live in a perpetual state of absolute terror.
The CPRE expressing "fear" again - I do pity the Chairwomen of the CPRE in Oxford(shire) - they must live in a perpetual state of absolute terror. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: -77

9:41pm Thu 7 Nov 13

WitneyGreen says...

Kidlington has nearly 14,000 people. That's not, by any stretch of the imagination, a village.
Kidlington has nearly 14,000 people. That's not, by any stretch of the imagination, a village. WitneyGreen
  • Score: -83

8:39am Fri 8 Nov 13

The Foxy Lady says...

Andrew, you always offer an utter lack of respect for CPRE or anyone wanting to preserve green land. Do you love concrete and do you see a future of cities amassed together, no greenbelt, no fresh air, just because we keep building everywhere. Obviously the loss of habitats, the loss of trees, wildlife, etc which is happening on an unprecidented scale in every local community after teh Governments relaxation of planning laws will only be a blip and humankind can show their offspring what trees and fields looked like in books perhaps? The CPRE represents alot of peoples views but sadly money and greed etc from the businessmen of this world means we keep on pushing our already full country into more and more expansion. Soon we will have a population of 73 million plus. And you just take the mickey out of the CPRE or NIMBYs. Are you not aware we need green land for the good of everything and the planet. We have got to learn that if we eradicate the countryside, we will never get it back.
Andrew, you always offer an utter lack of respect for CPRE or anyone wanting to preserve green land. Do you love concrete and do you see a future of cities amassed together, no greenbelt, no fresh air, just because we keep building everywhere. Obviously the loss of habitats, the loss of trees, wildlife, etc which is happening on an unprecidented scale in every local community after teh Governments relaxation of planning laws will only be a blip and humankind can show their offspring what trees and fields looked like in books perhaps? The CPRE represents alot of peoples views but sadly money and greed etc from the businessmen of this world means we keep on pushing our already full country into more and more expansion. Soon we will have a population of 73 million plus. And you just take the mickey out of the CPRE or NIMBYs. Are you not aware we need green land for the good of everything and the planet. We have got to learn that if we eradicate the countryside, we will never get it back. The Foxy Lady
  • Score: 22

8:52am Fri 8 Nov 13

yabbadabbadoo256 says...

The Foxy Lady wrote:
Andrew, you always offer an utter lack of respect for CPRE or anyone wanting to preserve green land. Do you love concrete and do you see a future of cities amassed together, no greenbelt, no fresh air, just because we keep building everywhere. Obviously the loss of habitats, the loss of trees, wildlife, etc which is happening on an unprecidented scale in every local community after teh Governments relaxation of planning laws will only be a blip and humankind can show their offspring what trees and fields looked like in books perhaps? The CPRE represents alot of peoples views but sadly money and greed etc from the businessmen of this world means we keep on pushing our already full country into more and more expansion. Soon we will have a population of 73 million plus. And you just take the mickey out of the CPRE or NIMBYs. Are you not aware we need green land for the good of everything and the planet. We have got to learn that if we eradicate the countryside, we will never get it back.
Not at all I would imagine.. Just a bit of realism thats all.

the CPRE seems to be panicking that because the destruction of one eyesore just off the A34 (The grain silo) that thats the beginning of the end and Oxford is going to double in size and turn into a concrete metropolis..

Well CPRE I can assure you it wont so as Andrew says... CALM DOWN!!
[quote][p][bold]The Foxy Lady[/bold] wrote: Andrew, you always offer an utter lack of respect for CPRE or anyone wanting to preserve green land. Do you love concrete and do you see a future of cities amassed together, no greenbelt, no fresh air, just because we keep building everywhere. Obviously the loss of habitats, the loss of trees, wildlife, etc which is happening on an unprecidented scale in every local community after teh Governments relaxation of planning laws will only be a blip and humankind can show their offspring what trees and fields looked like in books perhaps? The CPRE represents alot of peoples views but sadly money and greed etc from the businessmen of this world means we keep on pushing our already full country into more and more expansion. Soon we will have a population of 73 million plus. And you just take the mickey out of the CPRE or NIMBYs. Are you not aware we need green land for the good of everything and the planet. We have got to learn that if we eradicate the countryside, we will never get it back.[/p][/quote]Not at all I would imagine.. Just a bit of realism thats all. the CPRE seems to be panicking that because the destruction of one eyesore just off the A34 (The grain silo) that thats the beginning of the end and Oxford is going to double in size and turn into a concrete metropolis.. Well CPRE I can assure you it wont so as Andrew says... CALM DOWN!! yabbadabbadoo256
  • Score: -124

9:09am Fri 8 Nov 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

The Foxy Lady wrote:
Andrew, you always offer an utter lack of respect for CPRE or anyone wanting to preserve green land. Do you love concrete and do you see a future of cities amassed together, no greenbelt, no fresh air, just because we keep building everywhere. Obviously the loss of habitats, the loss of trees, wildlife, etc which is happening on an unprecidented scale in every local community after teh Governments relaxation of planning laws will only be a blip and humankind can show their offspring what trees and fields looked like in books perhaps? The CPRE represents alot of peoples views but sadly money and greed etc from the businessmen of this world means we keep on pushing our already full country into more and more expansion. Soon we will have a population of 73 million plus. And you just take the mickey out of the CPRE or NIMBYs. Are you not aware we need green land for the good of everything and the planet. We have got to learn that if we eradicate the countryside, we will never get it back.
The CPRE is an unelected body that has become quite pervasive in both the local and national media through their persistant and effective press office.

Go to Google, or your preferred search provider and undertake a search for the words:- "CPRE Fear"

There is nothing wrong with business, every farmer in this country is a businessman - as is every country estate.

There are 63M people in the United Kingdom at the moment. That will drop to 57M if Scotland goes independent next year.
[quote][p][bold]The Foxy Lady[/bold] wrote: Andrew, you always offer an utter lack of respect for CPRE or anyone wanting to preserve green land. Do you love concrete and do you see a future of cities amassed together, no greenbelt, no fresh air, just because we keep building everywhere. Obviously the loss of habitats, the loss of trees, wildlife, etc which is happening on an unprecidented scale in every local community after teh Governments relaxation of planning laws will only be a blip and humankind can show their offspring what trees and fields looked like in books perhaps? The CPRE represents alot of peoples views but sadly money and greed etc from the businessmen of this world means we keep on pushing our already full country into more and more expansion. Soon we will have a population of 73 million plus. And you just take the mickey out of the CPRE or NIMBYs. Are you not aware we need green land for the good of everything and the planet. We have got to learn that if we eradicate the countryside, we will never get it back.[/p][/quote]The CPRE is an unelected body that has become quite pervasive in both the local and national media through their persistant and effective press office. Go to Google, or your preferred search provider and undertake a search for the words:- "CPRE Fear" There is nothing wrong with business, every farmer in this country is a businessman - as is every country estate. There are 63M people in the United Kingdom at the moment. That will drop to 57M if Scotland goes independent next year. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: -59

11:08am Fri 8 Nov 13

LouiseOxford says...

The Foxy Lady wrote:
Andrew, you always offer an utter lack of respect for CPRE or anyone wanting to preserve green land. Do you love concrete and do you see a future of cities amassed together, no greenbelt, no fresh air, just because we keep building everywhere. Obviously the loss of habitats, the loss of trees, wildlife, etc which is happening on an unprecidented scale in every local community after teh Governments relaxation of planning laws will only be a blip and humankind can show their offspring what trees and fields looked like in books perhaps? The CPRE represents alot of peoples views but sadly money and greed etc from the businessmen of this world means we keep on pushing our already full country into more and more expansion. Soon we will have a population of 73 million plus. And you just take the mickey out of the CPRE or NIMBYs. Are you not aware we need green land for the good of everything and the planet. We have got to learn that if we eradicate the countryside, we will never get it back.
FYI only 2.3% of England is built on. I personally would like to be able to afford a house before I'm 50, so the more building, the better, especially around Oxford.
[quote][p][bold]The Foxy Lady[/bold] wrote: Andrew, you always offer an utter lack of respect for CPRE or anyone wanting to preserve green land. Do you love concrete and do you see a future of cities amassed together, no greenbelt, no fresh air, just because we keep building everywhere. Obviously the loss of habitats, the loss of trees, wildlife, etc which is happening on an unprecidented scale in every local community after teh Governments relaxation of planning laws will only be a blip and humankind can show their offspring what trees and fields looked like in books perhaps? The CPRE represents alot of peoples views but sadly money and greed etc from the businessmen of this world means we keep on pushing our already full country into more and more expansion. Soon we will have a population of 73 million plus. And you just take the mickey out of the CPRE or NIMBYs. Are you not aware we need green land for the good of everything and the planet. We have got to learn that if we eradicate the countryside, we will never get it back.[/p][/quote]FYI only 2.3% of England is built on. I personally would like to be able to afford a house before I'm 50, so the more building, the better, especially around Oxford. LouiseOxford
  • Score: -38

11:09am Fri 8 Nov 13

DuncanStott says...

Oxford desperately needs far more homes, and I don't see how we can get housebuilding on the scale we need without utilising some of the green belt.

The Oxford green belt takes up a THIRD of our entire county. I'm all in favour of accessible green space, but such a huge green belt goes far beyond what is needed. In any case it mainly shifts development pressure to non- green belt towns and villages.

Then we have the fact that Oxford's population grows by 30,000 each weekday as commuters grind their way through the green belt for work. If the green belt was loosened up by a few notches, more people would live on the right side of the green belt for their job, which would cut congestion and pollution.

As for wildlife, the first things to worry about are the bugs, insects and creepy crawlies that form the foundation of the animal ecosystem. The best environment for bugs is woodland, but after that they thrive in brownfields far better than plain grassland or even worse pesticide-soaked farmland. Yet the green belt pressurises development on brownfields, which is actually bad for bugs and therefore wildlife overall.
Oxford desperately needs far more homes, and I don't see how we can get housebuilding on the scale we need without utilising some of the green belt. The Oxford green belt takes up a THIRD of our entire county. I'm all in favour of accessible green space, but such a huge green belt goes far beyond what is needed. In any case it mainly shifts development pressure to non- green belt towns and villages. Then we have the fact that Oxford's population grows by 30,000 each weekday as commuters grind their way through the green belt for work. If the green belt was loosened up by a few notches, more people would live on the right side of the green belt for their job, which would cut congestion and pollution. As for wildlife, the first things to worry about are the bugs, insects and creepy crawlies that form the foundation of the animal ecosystem. The best environment for bugs is woodland, but after that they thrive in brownfields far better than plain grassland or even worse pesticide-soaked farmland. Yet the green belt pressurises development on brownfields, which is actually bad for bugs and therefore wildlife overall. DuncanStott
  • Score: -32

2:04pm Fri 8 Nov 13

King Joke says...

The problem is that if we release loads of green belt land, it will just encourage a load of low-density rubbish to be built, sprawling estates and windswept shopping centres with miles of car parks. Constricting the amount of land available encourages planners to think more creatively abotu how we can use land much more efficiently, with attractive apartment accommodation, local shops within walking distance and a road network which will support bus routes. This is not impractical thinking - they've been doing it in Germany for years.

The fact the City has bought consultants in from Freiburg to design Barton West, rather than just let a useless British new-build planner in, shows we're heading in the right direction.
The problem is that if we release loads of green belt land, it will just encourage a load of low-density rubbish to be built, sprawling estates and windswept shopping centres with miles of car parks. Constricting the amount of land available encourages planners to think more creatively abotu how we can use land much more efficiently, with attractive apartment accommodation, local shops within walking distance and a road network which will support bus routes. This is not impractical thinking - they've been doing it in Germany for years. The fact the City has bought consultants in from Freiburg to design Barton West, rather than just let a useless British new-build planner in, shows we're heading in the right direction. King Joke
  • Score: 3

3:39pm Fri 8 Nov 13

Andrew:Oxford says...

King Joke wrote:
The problem is that if we release loads of green belt land, it will just encourage a load of low-density rubbish to be built, sprawling estates and windswept shopping centres with miles of car parks. Constricting the amount of land available encourages planners to think more creatively abotu how we can use land much more efficiently, with attractive apartment accommodation, local shops within walking distance and a road network which will support bus routes. This is not impractical thinking - they've been doing it in Germany for years.

The fact the City has bought consultants in from Freiburg to design Barton West, rather than just let a useless British new-build planner in, shows we're heading in the right direction.
Some people relish living in an Apartment.

There's the community spirit of shared areas, allocated parking, communal bins. Not to forget the happy tolerance of neighbours sleeping patterns and the joy of interacting with your new neighbours upstairs - yet another short term rent.

Others long for a detached house where they are never kept awake by their neighbour's frenzied passions and can have a beautiful garden where honey bees feast on the floral displays all summer long.
[quote][p][bold]King Joke[/bold] wrote: The problem is that if we release loads of green belt land, it will just encourage a load of low-density rubbish to be built, sprawling estates and windswept shopping centres with miles of car parks. Constricting the amount of land available encourages planners to think more creatively abotu how we can use land much more efficiently, with attractive apartment accommodation, local shops within walking distance and a road network which will support bus routes. This is not impractical thinking - they've been doing it in Germany for years. The fact the City has bought consultants in from Freiburg to design Barton West, rather than just let a useless British new-build planner in, shows we're heading in the right direction.[/p][/quote]Some people relish living in an Apartment. There's the community spirit of shared areas, allocated parking, communal bins. Not to forget the happy tolerance of neighbours sleeping patterns and the joy of interacting with your new neighbours upstairs - yet another short term rent. Others long for a detached house where they are never kept awake by their neighbour's frenzied passions and can have a beautiful garden where honey bees feast on the floral displays all summer long. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: -56

4:04pm Fri 8 Nov 13

King Joke says...

THere are terraces as well - relatively high density but most units get a garden and honey bees . Property prices in Jericho suggest some people are quite tolerant of neighbourly, erm, passions. Incidentally prices in Edinburgh's New Town and surrounds indicate flats needn't be undesirable either.

THe wider point however is that, given the property shortage, it isn't realistic for everyone to want to live in a detatched house. People may be happy to lower their sights a little and take a smaller unit if it's in a well-designed neighbourhood with easy access to amenities.
THere are terraces as well - relatively high density but most units get a garden and honey bees [if they grow the right flowers]. Property prices in Jericho suggest some people are quite tolerant of neighbourly, erm, passions. Incidentally prices in Edinburgh's New Town and surrounds indicate flats needn't be undesirable either. THe wider point however is that, given the property shortage, it isn't realistic for everyone to want to live in a detatched house. People may be happy to lower their sights a little and take a smaller unit if it's in a well-designed neighbourhood with easy access to amenities. King Joke
  • Score: 2

4:09pm Fri 8 Nov 13

colinharry says...

I'm sure North oxford golf club own a 3rd of the land,they purchased it from one of the colleges about 8 years ago???????

Green belt??? gotta be built on one day...........North oxford????? ooooooo nooooooo NIMBY!!!!!!!
I'm sure North oxford golf club own a 3rd of the land,they purchased it from one of the colleges about 8 years ago??????? Green belt??? gotta be built on one day...........North oxford????? ooooooo nooooooo NIMBY!!!!!!! colinharry
  • Score: -136

10:59am Mon 11 Nov 13

downsview says...

CPRE seems to think Oxfords historic setting needs protecting in areas where the dreaming spires are not visible Kidlington etc to the North & Grenoble Rd to the south. Both are areas where high quality sustainable urban expansion should take place to solve Oxford's housing shortage.

Planning for how to accommodate the demands of all who live in the Oxford area means that the amenity of those who support the anti development line that CPRE promotes view their bit of England as being more important than the alternative areas in Didcot Bicester Witney etc that will need to be found to carry out the necessary development to deal with Oxford's issues.
What should be happening but isn't is that the local authorities review what is important & decide that rather than having moving Oxfords housing shortage to Bicester Didcot Witney etc which leads to more commuter traffic on the A34/A40 etc & the rat runs alternatives balanced sustainable development in parts of the current Oxford Green Belt provide a high quality public transport system as part of the expansion of the City so that public transport is better for commuters than cars that means bus lanes/Guided Buses/more bus priority gates on main roads and interchanges etc.
CPRE & their NIMBY custodians say no review of the Green Belt because it means the solution has to be provided elsewhere which means the on-costs for the rest of the community as roads etc are clogged even more with people travelling into Oxford for work.
CPRE need to say how they would resolve the issues rather than hoping they go away!
CPRE seems to think Oxfords historic setting needs protecting in areas where the dreaming spires are not visible Kidlington etc to the North & Grenoble Rd to the south. Both are areas where high quality sustainable urban expansion should take place to solve Oxford's housing shortage. Planning for how to accommodate the demands of all who live in the Oxford area means that the amenity of those who support the anti development line that CPRE promotes view their bit of England as being more important than the alternative areas in Didcot Bicester Witney etc that will need to be found to carry out the necessary development to deal with Oxford's issues. What should be happening but isn't is that the local authorities review what is important & decide that rather than having moving Oxfords housing shortage to Bicester Didcot Witney etc which leads to more commuter traffic on the A34/A40 etc & the rat runs alternatives balanced sustainable development in parts of the current Oxford Green Belt provide a high quality public transport system as part of the expansion of the City so that public transport is better for commuters than cars that means bus lanes/Guided Buses/more bus priority gates on main roads and interchanges etc. CPRE & their NIMBY custodians say no review of the Green Belt because it means the solution has to be provided elsewhere which means the on-costs for the rest of the community as roads etc are clogged even more with people travelling into Oxford for work. CPRE need to say how they would resolve the issues rather than hoping they go away! downsview
  • Score: -30

11:16am Mon 11 Nov 13

King Joke says...

Downsview, the problem is that new developements are NEVER built around public transport routes. An example is the Grove Airfield development which will be miles off the existing bus route, and is designed in such a way as to make it very difficult for buses to serve it. Or how about Bure Park in Bicester? No straight road through it, only a wiggly one from nowhere to nowhere with a speed hump every 50 m. Result: one bus an hour heavily subisidised.

Barton West is a step in the right direction, but until every new development has that much thought, and continental practice, going into it, new developments will just pour more traffic onto the roads, and you'd be better off encouraging inbound commuting from the county towns which at least can be accommodated on PT.

Another step would be to encourage employment in central Oxford, served by PT, rather than on the ring road which again just creates more traffic. The Northern Gateway will be a catastrophe.
Downsview, the problem is that new developements are NEVER built around public transport routes. An example is the Grove Airfield development which will be miles off the existing bus route, and is designed in such a way as to make it very difficult for buses to serve it. Or how about Bure Park in Bicester? No straight road through it, only a wiggly one from nowhere to nowhere with a speed hump every 50 m. Result: one bus an hour heavily subisidised. Barton West is a step in the right direction, but until every new development has that much thought, and continental practice, going into it, new developments will just pour more traffic onto the roads, and you'd be better off encouraging inbound commuting from the county towns which at least can be accommodated on PT. Another step would be to encourage employment in central Oxford, served by PT, rather than on the ring road which again just creates more traffic. The Northern Gateway will be a catastrophe. King Joke
  • Score: 6

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