Oxfordshire council rules out large-scale green belt release

An Oxfordshire council has said it will not allow any large-scale developments on green belt in its district, but may consider allowing smaller developments, following a review of the protected land.

Oxfordshire: council rules out large-scale green belt release
Oxfordshire: council rules out large-scale green belt release

Last November, South Oxfordshire District Council commissioned a study of its green belt as part of the evidence base for its emerging local plan.

According to the council, the purpose of the study was to assess whether green belt land still served its original purpose of preventing urban sprawl from Oxford and whether it met all five criteria for green belt designation set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

A final report said that the study had revealed the "generally very high level to which the green belt, as designated between 1955 and 1992, still retains its openness and meets the five criteria set out in the NPPF".

This, the document said, "demonstrates the success of the green belt policies in establishing a level of permanence to the green belt over these years".

However, the report also identified a "good number of potential small parcels of land which should be examined further", either for removal from the green belt because they no longer meet its purposes or for inclusion as rural exception sites next to villages.

The council said that in some areas, these parcels "could provide opportunities for some sustainable small-scale development".  It said it would look at these opportunities when it asks for comment on its local plan.

Council leader John Cotton said: "Some people want large developments built on the land by Grenoble Road on the edge of Oxford, but that would be the definition of urban sprawl, which the green belt was put in place to prevent. This report shows we’re right to be standing firm against those ideas."

South Oxfordshire District Council has previously been criticised by Oxford City Council for failing to take account of the city's unmet housing need in its local plan.

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, board member for planning and regulatory services at Oxford City Council said: "All the Oxfordshire districts are currently working together through the duty to cooperate to assess the best strategic options for delivering much-needed new housing.

"A key element of this work is a joint green belt study across the whole county, which is now almost completed, and will be fundamental in helping to assess the various strategic options for delivering housing. It would be wrong to prejudge the outcomes of those assessments and joint working processes solely on the basis of individual studies.  

"At this time the city council remains of the view that carefully planned urban extensions around the edge of the city offer the most sustainable option for accommodating Oxford’s growth compared to more remote locations where people would have to travel further and add to existing traffic problems in and around the city."

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