THE building of thousands of homes at contentious sites including Culham and Chalgrove Airfield is now up in the air after a council decided to reassess all possible options.

South Oxfordshire District Council will now write to the Government asking to look at 15 sites again after councillors backed a plan proposed by its cabinet last week.

The UK Atomic Agency said the impact of the decision – and a possible delay to house building in the district – could be ‘disastrous’ for development.

But the council’s planning member Felix Bloomfield said any reassessment would ensure that its Local Plan, which outlines where it wants to plan until 2033, is robust when it is submitted.

Former council leader John Cotton was scathing of the proposal. He said it amounted to ‘cowardice’ as the authority did not want to make a final decision on what sites would form its Local Plan.

Mr Cotton added there was ‘serious risk’ the council could damage relationships formed with the Government over recent months.

He said the ‘foolhardy errand’ risked relationships fostered in the construction of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal and potential investment for the future Didcot Garden Town.

Initially the council had wanted to present the Local Plan for independent assessment later this year but under its new proposal, the council wants to submit it by January 2020.

It will need the Government to agree to that extension. Under the terms of the Housing and Growth Deal, authorities are expected to submit Local Plans by April 1, 2019. 

Chalgrove councillor David Turner had sought to get the airfield project scrapped entirely but got support from just one other councillor, Labour’s Mocky Khan.

Conservative councillors lined up to dismiss Mr Turner’s amendment. Robert Simester said the council needed to stop ‘jaw jaw and get on with the war war’ to build homes for residents.

There were 19 councillors in favour of Mr Bloomfield's plan, five opposed and two abstained.