Thames Tap consultant Hugh Blaza casts an eyes over concerns being expressed about the scale and speed development across Oxfordshire and asks if the county’s growth is taking its inhabitants’ support with it.

For many years, the relentless pressure on housing within Oxford’s ring road has inevitably led planners to look at the areas of the county on the other side of the dual carriageway.

The city’s unmet housing needs figures and the financial support offered by the Growth Deal have now combined to produce a wave of Local Plans responding to the demand for more homes. The controversy over the proposed release of Green Belt land for housing and other uses is just one part of it, it seems.

The pathway towards adopting the Local Plans has not been smooth or easy. South Oxfordshire’s plan was pulled from the fire by central Government when it looked like a newly elected council would scrap the previous (Conservative) administration’s draft.

And Cherwell’s plan may have been adopted following the Planning Inspectorate’s approval but it is now the subject of a judicial review. How far that will go remains to be seen. But it may not be the only one.

Into the fray, the November 12 edition of the Oxford Times has now waded. There’s nothing like a star joining a battle to generate good copy and Shirley Collins, the veteran folk singer, has drawn attention to the proposals for developing fields in Iffley village.

The change in character of the village, traffic congestion and ecological damage are all cited as reasons why the development should not proceed.

Not so far from Iffley, in Headington, residents are campaigning against the ecological damage they say a proposed housing development will wreak on the Lye Valley fen.

And up north, near Banbury, villagers are up in arms over a housing development on the edge of the village of Milcombe.

Reader of the newspaper Dr Peter Williams demands to know why the Oxford Preservation Trust has raised barely a whisper against the threatened extension of urban sprawl and the plans to build on Green Belt land.

And in its leader, the paper pulls no punches, warning against the ruin of the charm of the city, the disaster for nature and wildlife and the ‘impoverishment of our lives’ if all the developments go ahead; a ‘nightmare vision’, as the writer puts it! And just so the county can accommodate ‘people from outside the county [rather] than local residents’.

As Prime Minister Johnson encourages the country to ‘build, build, build’ it seems the inhabitants of the areas where this might occur are less than enamoured by the prospect.

Sensitive design and the provision of 21st Century services and infrastructure may deliver benefits from at least some of the schemes, but in this (one hopes soon-to-be) post-Covid landscape, it seems there is much work to be done in persuading people that the scale of the proposed developments is right and that those benefits will ensue.

Image: Jonathan Billinger / Oxfordshire countryside.

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