Once again, there are rumours about building on the Green Belt. Once again, people like Campaign for Rural England (CPRE) are sharpening their quills and, once again, people living in or near rural areas are getting agitated.
The truth is never simple. The creation of Green Belts with their special protection from development goes back to the Town & Country Planning Act 1947. That is 68 years ago. Life has moved on.
A classic example is Oxford’s Green Belt. It surrounds Oxford City’s gleaming spires and protects this wonderful and largely medieval city from being turned into a ghastly, suburban Wokingham. However, there is a price to pay. Because Oxford enjoys a world class university – in fact two world class universities – and a world class hospital and a world class science-based economy, it is experiencing huge growth pressure and house prices have rocketed to the delight of the mainly Corbynista residents who mainly live off the public sector. However, these property prices present a nightmare scenario for lower-paid Oxford residents because even the most modest terraced residence is well out of their price range.
The Oxford Green Belt therefore has the effect of people working in Oxford City looking outside for their housing. Oxford is looking to Cherwell Council to plan for the City’s housing needs and Cherwell has no green belt to protect its green fields. Sadly many residents of Cherwell’s villages think the fields that surround them are Green Belt. They are not. They carry no protection and are currently prone to attack from the army of developers seeking to build little ticky-tacky boxes around our old Domesday villages such as Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote.
The result is the sort of awful urban estate planted on the Milton Road on the southern edge of Bloxham and featured here. A high number went to social housing with single mums with no cars and poor public transport. They also look like a bit of Banbury dumped on the edge of this fine medieval village.
If this had been in West Oxfordshire, I suspect Cameron would have stopped it in its tracks but this is not Cameron’s constituency.
Freeing up some of Oxford’s Green Belt would be good news for north Oxon villages.