Origin of the Oxford Green Belt
The concept of Green Belt formally emerged in 1955, although in practice the first Green Belt around London was designated in 1938. Following the rapid geographical growth and quick extension of city boundaries, local planning authorities were asked to clearly define green areas of land around the city that should stay intact and prevent physical growth of built-up area.
In spite of strong opposition from developers, this concept has received great support from the public. One planning officer observed “probably no planning circular and all that it implies has ever been so popular with the public. The idea has caught on and is supported by people of all shades of interest”.
Therefore, in April 1955, the Minister of Housing and Local Government asked other local authorities to consider establishing Green Belts. Guidelines set three main reasons for designation of Green Belt areas:
a) to check growth of a large and built-up area
b) to prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another; or
c) to preserve the special character of a town
Oxfordshire County Council was one of the first local authorities who responded to this call and started preparation works needed for the designation of land around the city as Oxford Green Belt. At that time three principal local authorities worked together to set up Oxford Green Belt. In 1956 part of the Vale's Green Belt was within Berkshire County Council’s jurisdiction, so Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council and Berkshire County Council worked together to draw up the Green Belt.
The formal application was submitted in November 1956, but underwent the full examination in only 1961. Even then, it took another 14 long years before the Oxford Green Belt was formally approved in 1975. The designated area covered between 4 and 6 miles around Oxford and was divided into an outer area of ‘approved’ Green Belt and an inner ‘interim’ area.
Eight villages within the Oxford Green Belt were designated as centres for population expansion, these include Kennington, Cumnor, Wootton, Radley and Appleton in the Vale. So called ‘inset’ villages were supposed to become centres of growth and provide more housing for increasing district population. The rest of the Green Belt area was intended to preserve land for open spaces.
Cothill Pitt falls within the Oxford Green Belt. In spite of the fact that it was previously used as a sand quarry, by the time of the Oxford Green Belt designation in 1956 the site was at least partly restored and included in the original Green Belt zone.
Since then, Cothill Pitt remains within the protected Oxford Green Belt. It also falls within the Vale of White Horse Conservation Target Area, as defined within the local plan and in 2016 was awarded Local Wildlife Site status and is termed Hitchcopse South Sandpit. These are strategic areas promoting the preservation, restoration and re-creation of priority habitats and populations of priority species.