Building out means expanding the city. Much of Oxford’s border is surrounded by current green belt, which is often a politically toxic issue. However we can restructure our green belt to achieve the original goals of the policy, without starving our city and leaving prices spiralling ever higher due to scarcity.
Green belts are founded on a sound, core idea: to keep cities compact in shape, not sprawling out along the motorways. We can revisit that original idea without being bound by its every letter by moving the green belt boundary outwards at a step, or even automatically do so from time to time, whenever 90% of the land inside it has been used. This would mean growth can happen around the edges of the city, instead of in outlying commuter towns and villages as at present. The result: more people able to walk, cycle, and use public transport to reach their work and shops, less commuter traffic, and a higher quality of life for people spared a daily commute.
Preserving nature and green space is a vital part of expanding Oxford. Much of the land in the current green belt is intensively farmed. This may be green in colour, but it is neither a paradise for nature, with most plants and animals kept at bay by chemical means to benefit crops, nor is it a good place for people to use for recreation. In expanding the city, we must both carve out spacious parks for people to enjoy, and offset our building activity by returning parts of the land to wild woodland. Those parts of the belt which are already wild should of course remain so.