South Oxfordshire Agrees Local Plan with ‘Green Belt Cherries’

Oxford Mail

PROPOSALS to build thousands of homes on Oxford’s Green Belt have taken a step closer after councillors finally accepted a controversial plan.

South Oxfordshire District Council voted to accept its Local Plan on Thursday, after another was rejected in March.

It wants to allocate seven sites for the building of thousands of homes but six of them currently lie in Oxford’s Green Belt.

The plan includes Grenoble Road, which Oxford City Council has wanted to build on for more than two decades. It owns part of the land, along with Magdalen College, Oxford and Thames Water.

About 1,700 homes could be built there, along with the city council-supported South Oxford Science Village.

Some Conservative councillors were scathing over their council’s plan. Elaine Hornsby, who represents Wallingford, said her ‘heart will bleed for rural Oxfordshire’ as it was passed.

As a result of it, 28,500 new homes will be built in the district by 2034.

While Sue Lawson, who represents Sandford and the Wittenhams, said she was ‘disappointed and saddened’ by the inclusion of so many Green Belt sites.

Prime Minister Theresa May said in March that ‘tearing up’ the Green Belt was an inadequate way of dealing with planning pressures.

But SODC’s leader Jane Murphy and its member for planning Felix Bloomfield insisted the plan was more legally ‘robust’ than the one rejected earlier this year.

Yet John Walsh, a former deputy leader of the council, said submitting the ‘very, very hurried’ plan would be ‘embarrassing’ and would be halted by an independent planning inspector next year.

Other projects close to the city council’s boundary with South Oxfordshire passed in the plan include Bayswater Brook, to the east of Oxford, and Northfield, close to the Mini factory. A total of 2,900 homes could be built there.

Some councillors said they were in favour of the Local Plan because it would be supported by ‘silent majority’ of residents, many of whom will be able to buy a new home.

Mr Bloomfield added: “This is a plan that will help South Oxfordshire continue to thrive and prosper – it’s not just about housing although it will bring many much-needed affordable homes, it is also about high-quality, well-paid jobs; it’s about shops, leisure and local green spaces; it’s about all the facilities needed to support thriving communities.”

In total, 22 councillors voted to accept the Local Plan; nine were opposed. They included former leader John Cotton, who said the proposal was the same as March’s – but with controversial ‘Green Belt cherries all over it’.

Public consultation opens on January 7