Monday, April 20, 2009

Hands on the Green Belt!

I read that some people wish to rally around the banner entitled 'Hands off Oxford's Green Belt'. I would respectfully suggest that what it needs is, in fact, a very hands-on approach.

You know my view: a Green Belt is needed but its worst friends are its soi-disant defenders. To dig the trenches to protect the Belt precisely where it is right now, without any possible incursion, is a way of securing defeat.

'Green Belt' conjures up images of sylvan countryside where only tractors should penetrate. But some land designated as 'Green Belt' is hardly that: car-parks, or disused quarry, or poor quality land scarred by pylons.

The dirigiste position would insist that if it was once called 'Green Belt' so it should remain in perpetuity. But that is both impracticable and missing an opportunity.

Cnut had more luck with the sea than the knights of the Belt will have with their campaign to stop change. Whoever is in government is not going to give up the opportunity to lessen Oxfordshire's housing crisis with some building south of Oxford around Grenoble Road. Nor is the argument for better public transport into Oxford going to be halted by protesters railing against the growth of Park & Ride.

By making the previous boundaries immutable, those who think of themselves as the Belt's defenders are actually selling it short. Some change is inevitable: what is critical is that those incidents are not taken as precedents allowing deeper and deeper encroachments.

The way to avoid that is to accept that the Belt, like the city it surrounds, is living and can change. Not, I stress, that it should necessarily decrease: the opportunity that is being ignored is for the possibility of land-swaps, negotiating to bring land into the Belt as other sections are moved out from it. But negotiation seems not be on some people's agenda at the moment.

In short, the Green Belt is too important to be left to is supposed defenders. If it stayed in their hands, the Belt would have to brace itself for buckling under the weight of expectations.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Well said!