I took a day out of campaigning this week to attend and speak at the public inquiry of the Oxford City local plan.
It was a feeling of déjà vu for me as I spent several days doing the same thing in Cherwell earlier this year when our local plan partial review was being examined. Cherwell is pushing to build thousands of houses on green belt land in the south of the district and I have been campaigning for the past 2 years to protect those vital green areas for future generations.
I was at the inquiry into the city plans because it’s those proposals that are forcing local district councils to add to their own housing requirements to service what the city claims is an ‘unmet need’. Whilst I and other campaigners don’t dispute that Oxford has a need for housing for its own workers, claims that they can’t meet that need within their own boundaries are hotly disputed.
It’s generally believed that the reason they can’t meet that need themselves is that they would rather use their own land for economic development to build more shops, offices, hotels, restaurants and student accommodation. The Labour run city council then expect the surrounding rural districts to meet their housing need for them and Conservative run councils like Cherwell are only too glad to oblige as this gives them a perfect excuse to enrich the local landowners and developers who support them.
It’s sad to see that both Labour and the Conservatives are pursuing a policy of green belt destruction in Oxfordshire when there really is no need. There are plenty of brownfield sites available to build on, as well as empty properties that should be re-purposed or brought back into use.
I want to see more genuinely affordable housing for people on average incomes. More social and council housing. Rent controls on private landlords and an end to unfair developer lease & ground rent charges, but we will never see large amounts of affordable housing in Oxfordshire if they are built on high value green belt land. The only reason these areas are targetted is because they are ripe to be used by developers to build high value executive homes and mini-mansions to make a massive killing.
There should not be development on Green Belt land except where there is an incontrovertible need to do so. Our precious green spaces should not be handed over the developers simply to make huge profits for landowners and speculators, especially when much of that housing is not affordable in any real sense.
Green spaces are also now even more vital to help combat climate change and flooding. Concreting them over and adding more roads and houses with inefficient heating systems just piles on the pressure to the environment and exports Oxford’s poor air quality standards to the rural areas of the county.
The Green party has pledged to build 100,000 genuinely affordable socially rented properties every year for 10 years. Houses that will be built to the Passive House standard meaning they will be both sustainable and affordable to maintain and heat.
This will not only provide much-needed homes for people of average incomes, they will be the right houses in the right places and will also provide employment for thousands of builders and manufacturers.
This is on top of retrofitting every house in the country to make them more energy efficient as part of our Green New Deal.
As a founding member of a housing co-op in London in the 1980s, I also want to encourage other ways of getting people into affordable housing such as Land Trusts and Co-ops and see more social and council housing built.
You can find out more about our policies on housing in our manifesto here https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/Elections/Green%20Party%20Manifesto%202019.pdf