Current Concerns - 2017
May 2016 - The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) which is an unelected not-for profit limited company, has recently ‘refreshed’ its Strategic Economic Plan for Oxfordshire (SEP) which was first published first in 2014 without any public consultation. This refreshed version of the Strategic Economic Plan, now available for some limited public comment, concentrates on promoting growth with little attention to the impact that such growth will have on the environment, including that of the Oxford Green Belt. Please see the response of the Oxford Green Belt Network to the public consultation on the Plan which closes on 27th May 2016.
March 2016 - The Oxford Green Belt Network has submitted a written statement and will also be appearing at the Examination into the Vale of White Horse Local Plan which begins on 2nd February. We shall be challenging the Vale's own statement that parts of the Green Belt no longer meet the purposes of the Green Belt, a statement that is not supported by the review of the Green Belt carried out for the Vale by consultants. We shall also be challenging the Vale's wish to remove a large number of sites from the Green Belt without saying what plans it has for them.
We were disappointed that the inspector who led the Examination into Oxford City’s Northern Gateway plans did not support our view that land south of the A40 should remain a part of the Green Belt. Like others, we have grave concerns about the impact on the surrounding environment of all the development that is being proposed in this part of Oxford which, until the 1990s, was all included in the Green Belt. It is another example of how the Oxford Green Belt is being eroded piece by piece in the interest of more and more growth.
We are strongly opposed to Oxfordshire County Council’s proposal to create a new generation of park and ride sites in the Green Belt. The sites being suggested will do little to get cars off the road and we believe that the parking facilities should be further out, beyond the Green Belt, and closer to where the majority of commuters to Oxford live and where they could take advantage of improved public transport links to the city.
We continue to oppose the creation of solar farms with their arrays of industrial panels that reduce the openness and visual amenity of the Green Belt. Two large ones have been allowed in the last year or two and others are the subject of planning applications at present. We believe that solar panels should be on the roofs of buildings, not on open farmland.
Current Concerns - February 2014
In 2013 we welcomed the setting up an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Green Belts. The group is collecting evidence relating to Green Belts and has invited answers to a number of questions. The answers submitted by the Oxford Green Belt Network can be read below, together with those from the London Green Belt Council.
Current Concerns - January 2014
Update on the Campaign to Save Port Meadow
Since Oxford Green Belt Network supports the protection of the openness of all parts of the Oxford Green Belt, it continues to support the campaign to save the openness of Port Meadow, where very obvious damage has been inflicted on the openness of this meadow by the construction of the eight blocks of the University's Castle Mill flats in Roger Dudman Way. The comparison of original classic view (below left) from Port Meadow towards the Oxford skyline before the unwelcome construction of the flats with the view (below right) in February 2013 and taken from the CPRE's website, makes it clear in the words of the Oxford author Philip Pullman that these buildings represent "destructive, brutal, ugly vandalism" and he said that the City Council ought to be ashamed.
The legal challenge brought by the CPRE to the City Council's grant of planning permission for these flats was unsuccessful because the Judge Mr Justice Lewis based his judgement on commitments made in Court by Oxford City Council and Oxford University to conduct a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with full public consultation. On this basis the Judge decided to trust them to do the right thing. However, little progress has so far been made towards producing this EIA, and the review of the planning decision published by Vincent Goodstadt (past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute) into the Castle Mill development at Port Meadow has vindicated the thousands of critics of this decision and the way it was reached, and concluded that:
- There were serious errors in the University's Planning Application which were not identified by the City Council.
- There was inadequate public consultation, well below the accepted standards for developments in Oxford.
- The Assessment of Visual Impact was limited and inadequate.
- Planning Officers did not present choices to Councillors clearly and did not provide adequate information on design.
These University flats continue to adversely and prominently intrude upon one of Oxford's most important open spaces both by day and by night, and Oxford City Council has taken no steps to repair this damage. It is still hoped that this damage can be repaired, and that there will be a significant improvement in Oxford City Council's Planning performance in relation to nationally agreed policies and procedures, and that more explicit guidance on building design in Oxford will be developed. The permanence of the Oxford Green Belt is essential to protect the special character and setting of the City and University of Oxford on which so much of its economic viability depends.
The following observations were made by the Planning Minister, Nick Boles MP, during a visit to Oxford to inspect the flats. The Minister said: 'Nothing quite prepares you for the awfulness of it all until you see it in situ. It's as if somebody had built the Maze prison on the edge of Oxford.'
He went on to describe the Roger Dudman Way development as 'one of the worst examples of modern design I have seen in a year and a half as Planning Minister and one of the worst examples of the planning process I have ever encountered'. He also said that 'the City Council and University owe local people an apology'.