I’ve spoken to hundreds of people during this short election campaign and probably the most important issue on most people’s minds right now is the threat to our local green belt.
I made a video about it last week which has received quite a bit of attention since it was released. You can watch it here.
Of course in Yarnton, Begbroke and Gosford (where I’m standing to become the new local County Councillor) it’s in the forefront of everyone’s minds because, if it goes ahead, we’ll be the ones living in the middle of a building site for possibly the next 10 years. We’ll also see our small rural communities destroyed and replaced with a single medium sized town, one that will probably also double up as a university campus for the Begbroke Science Park.
But even in Kidlington, (which comprises a large part of the County division) it’s going to have a huge impact. There may not be as many houses built in the area, but the additional strain on our local resources, such as health services, education and leisure facilities will be very detrimental. We’ll also see a noticeable reduction in air quality which is likely to have health impacts on the most vulnerable, as well as increased risks of flooding. The A44 will probably become a car park during busy times, giving us all the chance to sit and admire the 4 storey apartment blocks that will tower over the edge of the dual carriageway.
There’s also a good chance that Kidlington will finally lose the argument about hanging on to it’s status as a village. In 10 years time, when the population has possibly tripled, there’s likely to be a much greater push to establish the whole area as a suburb of a Greater Oxford City. Not a prospect I, or anyone else in the area, relishes but something we may have little choice over.
I for one won’t stop fighting for that until the last blade of grass has fallen under the bulldozer’s tracks.
All this might be acceptable to a greater degree if these houses were going to provide affordable accommodation for local families, many of whom are crammed into a single house with perhaps 3 generations under one roof. But these aren’t for the likes of them. These will be expensive luxury executive houses built for investment purposes, with the so-called ‘affordable’ houses reserved for people in Oxford City. The District Council saw to that when they handed control of those houses over to the City Council in a closed meeting at the beginning of the first lockdown. None of these houses will be within reach of local residents.
A lot of people have told me that all this is inevitable and that the 4400 houses are a ‘done deal’. Well that isn’t the case until we know the outcome of the legal challenge being brought to the high court next month. Until that’s over we have no idea if these proposals will stand up or collapse. There have been reports in other areas recently where challenges have been upheld, and if we get the same result Cherwell District Council will have to think again. In those circumstances we’ll need as much support on the District Council as possible which is why I’m supporting Fiona Mawson to become our second Green Party Councillor on CDC.
But even if we fail to stop these devastating plans though the courts, we can at least do our best to limit some of that devastation by having engaged and active councillors at all levels of local government. On the County Council fighting for infrastructure and other important considerations like flood protection, and of course at District and Parish level scrutinising the individual planning proposals themselves. We also have to be vigilant in opposing ‘infilling’ which may become more of an issue as the amount of development space in the area is snapped up by the bigger developers.
So I hope I and Fiona can count on the support of our local residents in the elections on Thursday. We’ve seen how our current crop of Conservative councillors have let us down on these issues, and let’s not forget that this whole idea was the brainchild of the Conservatives on Cherwell District Council in the first place, in cahoots with Oxford University, the City Council, the Oxfordshire Growth Board and the Local Enterprise Partnership. After Thursday we may have more leverage to defend our small rural communities against these faceless, unelected and anti-democratic quangos and take back control of our green heritage.
I for one won’t stop fighting for that until the last blade of grass has fallen under the bulldozer’s tracks. I hope you’ll all support me as your Green Councillor in that long battle.