Problems with Oxford’s Green Belt
Suggesting that all we need to do to prevent “urban sprawl” and to safeguard our countryside is to keep green belts intact is naive.
26 October 2015
This letter was published in response to an article about reviewing the Green Belt published in The Guardian on 19 October.
Oxford is no longer a tight-knit medieval town with a few charming Victorian suburbs; it is economically and socially intertwined with the towns and villages around it, which, as much as the green belt countryside, represent the “setting” of Oxford. This interdependency makes transport a key issue and road congestion as well as air pollution are at crisis level.
Planning functions for this city region are in the hands of five different authorities, while a sixth, the county council, is responsible for transport policy. Oxford and Oxfordshire cry out for properly coordinated, rigorous planning and transport policies based on pragmatic common sense, and objective analysis of the facts, not tainted by political antagonism.
A university-commissioned report last year, The Oxford Innovation Engine, identified the potential for an additional contribution from the region to the national economy of “at least” £1bn, if the constraints were removed. Foremost of the constraints is the infrastructure – housing, employment space and transport systems. We have to look not at how we can prevent development but how we can do it to the benefit of future generations.
Suggesting that all we need to do to preserve the setting of our city, towns and villages, to prevent “urban sprawl” and to safeguard our countryside is to keep green belts intact is naive. Our own report, Oxford Futures, sets out some suggestions for a way forward. To denounce these ideas on the grounds that they might fail as a result of corruption, while clinging to patently inadequate, 65-year-old legislation in the belief that this way lies salvation from the concrete jungle, is nonsense.
Chairman, Oxford Civic Society
Read more from the Civic Society about the Green Belt. [http://www.oxcivicsoc.org.uk//index.php?view=article&id=240]