Green Belt or Green Noose?

Back in 1955 when the Oxford green belt was proposed Oxford was a very different place. The average price of a house was £1,937 1 or just over 4 times the average salary 2. Today the average price of a semi-detached house in Oxford is £505,142 1 which is more than 18 times the average salary 2.

On the face of it the Oxfordshire green belt has worked and stopped urban sprawl, but it’s worked a little too well, throttling the city to the point where the Green Belt needs to be independently reviewed.  Oxford has run out of space; house prices in Oxford have become unaffordable; the City has a crisis, with a shortage of Doctors and Nurses at the hospitals, a shortage of Teachers in the Schools and even a shortage of bus drivers. The current plan is, rather than taking a practical and pragmatic review of the green belt, SODC would like to build a dormitory car-based town in Chalgrove, increasing traffic, pollution and congestion.

This plan has been used before with large growth in Witney, Carterton, Didcot, Banbury and Bicester all growing at a much faster rate than Oxford and the national average, but it hasn’t worked. House builders no longer want to build affordable housing in Didcot because they can’t sell them, despite the price being nearly £200,000 less than Oxford. As a result. developments in Didcot and Bicester are having to be advertised in London!

This shows that rather than stopping urban sprawl, the Oxfordshire green belt is simply encouraging it elsewhere in Oxfordshire with leap frog developments that are not actually addressing the needs of the city.

We don’t want to see the end of the Green Belt, it has a vital role to play meeting the purposes of Green Belts, such as preserving the setting of the Thames south of Oxford and preventing Littlemore and Kennington from merging into one another. We feel that the fields between Marston and Summertown are vital to preserve the setting and special character of historic Oxford, but as for assisting Urban regeneration, there simply aren’t sufficient sites available. We feel that by carefully selecting some areas of the Green Belt for development, Oxford housing needs can be addressed, whilst still meeting the objectives of the Green Belt, or even extending the Green Belt boundary outwards.

The 2015 Green Belt study commissioned by SODC is fundamentally flawed, ignoring previously developed land (Brown Field) in the green belt and lumping large areas of Green Belt together to bolster SODC’s view that green belt must be protected at all cost.

We believe that the only way forward is to have a fully independent review of the Oxfordshire Green Belt, in relation to Oxford’s housing needs, particularly with well placed, connected and sustainable sites such as Grenoble Road and Wick Farm given special consideration for development.

1 Source:  Nationwide Building Society House Price Index archive

2. Source: ONS