500-home Oxford green belt scheme refused against officer advice

Oxfordshire councillors have refused a planning application for 500 homes at a university campus, against a recommendation from planners who concluded that very special circumstances had been demonstrated to allow the green belt scheme.

An artist's impression of plans for Oxford Brookes University's Wheatley campus.
An artist's impression of plans for Oxford Brookes University's Wheatley campus.

Oxford Brookes University was seeking outline permission for housing and associated infrastructure at its 21.6-hectare Wheatley campus east of the city, which currently comprises academic buildings and sports facilities. University business still takes place at the site but a long-term plan is under way to relocate to Oxford city centre.

South Oxfordshire District Council planning officers had recommended the scheme for approval, noting the site’s status as previously developed land in the green belt and its identification as a strategic allocation in an emerging local plan.

Officers advised councillors that the public benefits of the proposed scheme "would amount to very special circumstances for development in the green belt".

They also maintained that the proposed scheme would result in the "flattening and wider dispersal of buildings", resulting in no greater impact on the openness of the green belt.

However, officers also advised that the proposal did not meet all of the community’s aspirations for the site, as set out in the emerging Wheatley Neighbourhood Plan.

The site is located within the parish of Holton. Both Holton and Wheatley Parish Councils objected to the proposal on the basis that it would extend beyond previously developed land and cause harm to the green belt.

Heritage watchdog Historic England also raised concerns about the development’s impact on nearby heritage assets and scheduled monuments.

The plans were refused at a planning committee meeting yesterday.

A statement from the council said that members' main concerns about the application included "harm to the openness and visual amenity of the green belt from the spread of built development westwards; adverse impact on heritage assets and parkland landscape; and poor connectivity with Wheatley and Holton, particularly in terms of walking distances to local services". 

In July, housing secretary James Brokenshire overruled an inspector and refused permission for 120 homes in the district after giving "significant weight" to a recently adopted neighbourhood plan.

Earlier this month, a planning inspector dismissed an appeal from land promoter Gladman seeking to overturn South Oxfordshire Council’s refusal of plans for 245 homes near Reading.

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