Green Party says Cherwell District Council abdicates responsibility for green belt destruction
On Monday night Cherwell District Council voted to accept the partial review of the local plan, predicated on a supposed unmet housing need in the city of Oxford.
The need is ‘supposed’ because there is as yet no evidence to support that this need exists. There certainly appears to be no urgency on behalf of the city council themselves to meet this need as they continue to prioritise economic development over affordable housing, whilst allowing luxury property developers free rein in places like the new Westgate and the Beaumont Gate development in Abbey Road.
Cherwell District Council revealed proposals last year to build 4400 houses on green belt land in Yarnton, Begbroke and Kidlington. This is their portion of an allocation of 15,000 extra houses for Oxford City concocted with little or no evidence by the unelected and unaccountable Oxfordshire Growth Board.
The proposals will coalesce the three distinct communities into one giant conurbation with no realistic improvements planned to local infrastructure or roads to cope with well over 10,000 new residents that will triple the existing population.
Council leader Barry Wood made it obvious in statements last year that, as far as he was concerned were concerned, the matter was a ‘done deal’ even while the consultation process was still going on.
His and lead planning councillor Colin Clarke’s cynical intentions were made even clearer when before the meeting they effectively whipped their colleagues by sending out scaremongering emails warning that if the review as not supported the whole of Cherwell’s local plan would collapse. A highly questionable position, strongly rebutted by local campaigners and legal opinion. This was in direct contravention of the normally accepted principle that councillors would not driven to make decisions along party lines on planning matters.
When this appeared not to be working, Councillor Wood suggested that the review should simply be passed on the basis that it would be sent to the planning inspectorate who would then make the decision for them. Effectively abdicating all responsibility for the decision themselves.
Many conservative councillors seemed to have already made up their minds before the meeting and appeared as uninterested in the chamber debate as they presumably were in the over 1500 responses to the consultation process. It’s been reported that one was even spotted booking a holiday on a mobile phone during the meeting!
Green Party Spokesman at the meeting Ian Middleton said
“Cherwell residents deserve more than this from their elected representatives and those councillors who have simply passed the buck on this highly controversial and potentially devastating issue should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves”.
The Green Party’s full response to the review can be read here.
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