'Yes' is default, claims group
countryside campaigners in Oxfordshire have condemned proposed changes to the planning system, which they claim amount to “a default ‘yes’ to development”.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the Government’s suggested policy switch could “undermine everything the CPRE has worked for in the county over the past 80 years”.
One of the most controversial ideas in the Draft National Planning Policy Framework is that communities could support development plans for green belt land, removing traditional restrictions.
Former city council leader John Goddard said this might revive the idea of housing on land south of Grenoble Road.
The CPRE, South Oxfordshire District Council and villages south of Oxford fought an eight-year campaign to block moves by the city council and landowners to build 4,000 homes on the site.
The Government’s decision last year to scrap the South East Plan – a blueprint for development until 2026 – looked to have thwarted the urban extension idea.
But Mr Goddard said the city needed more housing and would eventually run out of suitable sites.
He said: “Where do they go then? Didcot, Banbury and Bicester perhaps, or do some go on a very small proportion of Oxford’s very large green belt? I have always supported the proposition that a small area south of Grenoble Road could accommodate some of those homes.”
Mr Goddard said under the Government’s localism agenda, there would be a duty placed on councils to co-operate.
The Government insists it is committed to protecting green belt land in a process which could see 1,000 pages of planning guidance slashed to just 52.
Helen Marshall, the director of CPRE Oxfordshire, said: “This shift towards development at all costs threatens to undermine everything CPRE has worked for over the past 80 years.
“The language used is all about economic growth, with no account taken of protecting the environment for future generations.
“The current system certainly has its flaws, but it can’t just be made the scapegoat for all our economic problems.”
The Government’s Planning Minister, Greg Clark, said: “National planning policy and central government guidance has become so bloated it contains more words than the complete works of Shakespeare, making it impenetrable to ordinary people. We need a simpler, swifter system that’s easier to understand.”