Earlier this month, we wrote to Councillor Barber, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council to re-state our grave concerns at the Council’s proposed housing allocation of 1,400 dwellings on Greenfield Grade 2 agricultural land in the open countryside at Harwell Campus in this nationally protected landscape. We asked for the council to review why housing for 3220 people is being proposed on Greenfield sites at Harwell Campus that do not relate to an existing settlement and will result in real long lasting harm to the character and qualities of the AONB. Harwell Campus is also a specific area that the AONB have highlighted as being an open landscape with particular vulnerability to large scale development.
If housing is required to meet the local needs of Harwell Campus, there is substantial scope within the existing Campus boundary, without the need to expand it outward into the open landscape of the nationally protected AONB.
We also agree with independent work that has been undertaken by the CPRE that confirms that other options are available outside the AONB, including of course brownfield sites.
The existing Harwell Campus is simply an employment site, not an existing community with schools, services and existing facilities. We believe this proposal does not meet local needs but is a specific long term strategic aim of the Council to expand Harwell Campus out into the AONB as a “new town.” The Council previously acknowledged that this initial allocation of 1400 homes will also pave the way for a future reserve site for an additional 2000 homes.
It is our understanding this proposed housing allocation is the largest greenfield housing allocation within any protected landscape (AONB or National Park) in the UK. Above all, this proposal threatens to undermine the whole basis of AONBs nationally. We are also aware of a number of other organisations, including Natural England, who have also expressed their fundamental concern over the Vale’s proposals at Harwell Campus.
The Council are under a legal duty under Section 85 of the CRoW Act 2000 to conserve and enhance the character and qualities of the AONB and accordingly afford it great weight in any decision. The Council are also a member of the AONB Partnership and have approved the statutory Management Plan for the AONB.