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Call to develop in Oxford's Green Belt alarms conservation group
CONCERNS have been raised about proposals to build homes and businesses on Oxford’s Green Belt.
Development of land in Begbroke, north of the city, is one of the key recommendations in a major study setting out how Oxfordshire can generate an extra £1bn of economic output.
It calls for the expansion of the existing university science park at Begbroke and highlights building opportunities on “very significant areas around the site”.
But campaigners say the Green Band there needs to be protected.
Brian Wood, chairman of the county branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Our view is that the whole point of a Green Belt is that it should be permanent.
“That is particularly because the Green Belt around Oxford protects the setting of Oxford as a university city.”
Craig Simmons, Green party group leader on Oxford City Council, said: “Our party view is that it should be protected. What makes Oxford so attractive is its rural setting. You would destroy the very thing that attracts businesses here in the first place.
“We will look at the proposal in detail. Why not use degraded land rather than pristine Green Belt?
“We shouldn’t be destroying these things that make the Oxford region more attractive.”
Business experts see it differently: an independent report commissioned by Oxford University and Science Oxford says: “The whole of this area offers tremendous potential to create a dynamic interface between the university and corporate research facilities and creative new businesses.
“It could enable the expansion of engineering and other applied sciences and also provide much needed university-related housing.”
The report, entitled The Oxfordshire Innovation Engine: Realising the Growth Potential, was launched at the Said Business School by David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science.
Begbroke, it says, is set to benefit from the new railway station planned for Water Eaton in 2015 on the new railway link between Bicester, Oxford and London. But it insists that realising the development potential of the area “will require changes to Green Belt boundaries.”
The university owns Begbroke Science Park along with surrounding farmland next to the main Woodstock to Oxford road.
Six years ago, it proposed building thousands of homes on a 368-acre greenfield site between Kidlington and Yarnton.
The report by economic consultants SQW warns that future growth in the county depends on improvements to railways and roads particularly the A34, with space needed for businesses and houses for workers.
Increased Oxford University involvement at Harwell is also urged in the report, which calls for space for new and growing firms within the planned redevelopment of Oxford railway station and on the Churchill Hospital campus.