Weston Front

: fighting Weston Otmoor eco-town

Tony Baldry MPTony Baldry MP to meet Caroline Flint on Monday 21st July

Tony Baldry will spell out to Caroline Flint his objections to the Weston/Otmoor proposal:

- Cherwell District Council has sought to deliver on the housing figures as requested by Government. If the Government is saying that it wants Local Authorities in the South East including Cherwell to grant planning permission for more houses in the immediate future, then it should say that, and allow Cherwell and local councillors through the appropriate planning mechanisms to identify suitable sites for new housing construction. :

- Ministers have sought to issue site specific planning guidance to Local Authorities. Ministers say that these Ecotown proposals will go through the normal planning system but they are going to introduce abnormal and unprecedented planning policy statements to effectively direct where such Ecotowns should be built.

- He will then point out a number of specific reasons why the Weston/Otmoor proposal is a crazy idea and should be dropped forthwith from the Government’s shortlist.:

- It would destroy an area of English countryside of high environmental and ecological value. This has been well explained to Ministers in the submissions by leading environmental NGOs, such as BBOWT, the combined Naturalist Trusts, and the RSPB.

Tony Baldry will say:

“The fact is that the Weston/Otmoor Ecotown proposal is a completely friendless policy supported so far only by the developers and the Government. Every organisation concerned with the countryside, environment and ecology, is opposed to this site.”

- It is no accident that when driving up the M40 from London to Birmingham, shortly after passing Oxford, the motorway travels around quite a curve.

Tony Baldry will then give the practical objection, saying that he does not believe that the Ministers will find anyone who thinks that it would be possible to build a new town and effectively ban people from owning cars. The A34 and the M40 between junctions 9 and 10 are already a nightmare. These roads at many times are near their capacity, and if one gridlocks the A34, and the M40, one effectively grid locks a large part of the West Midlands.

Tony Baldry will say:

“Ministers and Government officials have made much of the developers’ so-called infrastructure proposal. In short, this basically boils down to a new railway station. Setting aside the idea that residents of this new town would forego cars and seek to go everywhere by train and tram is completely fanciful.”

He will then demonstrate how the railway station in the Weston/Otmoor Ecotown proposal is a fundamental contradiction in this proposal. The Government has said that there will be no houses built on the Green Belt in an Ecotown development. However, some 30% of Parkridge’s proposed development is within the Green Belt. Most significantly, the proposed railway station is within the Green Belt.

Tony Baldry will say:

“If Ministers are serious about protecting the Green Belt, then that is yet another reason why it would be sensible to drop the Weston/Otmoor proposal immediately from the short list as there is no way this proposal can go forward without destroying a substantial chunk of the Oxford Green belt. “

He will then detail the serious concerns about the viability of Parkridge’s railway proposals.

His last and very serious objection to this proposed Ecotown will relate to the vitality and viability of Bicester. Bicester is, and has for some time, been one of the fastest growing towns in England. It has delivered for the Government on housing numbers big time, but it desperately needs economic growth to rebalance itself and to become more sustainable.

Tony Baldry will say:

“It is fanciful to believe that it would be possible to build a new town effectively the size of Bicester so near to Bicester without that new town having a serious impact on the vitality and viability as a community and economically.”

Tony Baldry will conclude that for all of the above reasons, he suggests that the Government should make it clear at the earliest possible opportunity that the Weston/Otmoor proposal is being dropped from the list of possible Ecotown sites.

Full Text

website copyright © 2008 Weston Front