Response on Green Belt release

Letter to the 'Sunday Times'

10 September 2014

Chairman Peter Thompson wrote the following letter to The Sunday Times in response to an article by Eleanor Mills, “New builds to keep the spires dreaming” published on 7 September. The letter clarifies Oxford Civic Society’s position on building on green belt land.

Dear Sir

Eleanor Mills threw a welcome spotlight on the ideas which deservedly won URBED the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize (News Review 7th September), but I feel I must pick her up on one point.

Oxford Civic Society has been arguing for properly-coordinated, consistent and integrated planning and transport policy, not “green-belt release”. Oxford, these days, is the heart of a region extending way beyond the city’s boundaries; nearly 50,000 daily commuters crossing the administrative boundary from as far as 20 miles away prove this. Unique geographical and historical constraints dictate what can be done and where, and transport is at the heart of every development proposal. Yet six different Local Authorities, often at loggerheads, control the planning of development. If the delights of this historic city and its surrounding towns and villages are to be preserved and enhanced, a shared vision is absolutely essential, as well as the leadership to deliver it. Arguing over the piecemeal erosion of elements of the green belt is not the point; whichever way the arguments go, they are not going to ensure a future for Oxford in which its economic, educational and cultural potential is fulfilled, its heritage is preserved and it remains one of the most desirable places in the world to live, work and visit.

Earlier this year we produced a report ‘Oxford Futures – achieving smarter growth in Central Oxfordshire’, which sets out a vision for the city region and makes proposals for its achievement. Please visit to see this, and for our other publications. We also provided a little assistance to the URBED team in finalising its Wolfson Prize submission, since the ideas presented have relevance to Oxford’s situation. We heartily congratulate the team on its success and look forward to seeing matters develop.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Thompson

Chairman, Oxford Civic Society

For a fuller account of OCS’ views on the Green Belt see this article from July 2014.