A CONTROVERSIAL plan to decide where homes are built in South Oxfordshire is due to be discussed after months of stalemate.

South Oxfordshire District Council is due to talk about its Local Plan officially on Thursday for the first time since the government stopped it from doing so in October.

Despite months of behind-the-scenes debate and negotiation about possible ways for the council's new Liberal Democrat and Green Party leaders to make changes to the plan drawn up by the previous Conservative administration – including where and how many houses are due to be built in the area – they now face the same choice they did during October.

The two options on the table are: Option A – for the council to accept the Local Plan; or Option B – for the council to withdraw the plan and make changes to it.

However housing minister Robert Jenrick has already warned the council that if it chooses the latter option, he is likely to take the whole process away and handed it over to Conservative-led Oxfordshire County Council.

Also read: Jobs are at risk at a respected Oxford secondary school

The Herald understands the suspension issued by Mr Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, is due to be lifted today ahead of the meeting.

But at the time of writing, no written confirmation had been made, despite council meetings about the Local Plan scheduled for Thursday.

The council's cabinet member for economic development and regeneration, Robin Bennett, said: “We are hoping for and expecting some kind of confirmation because otherwise we cannot have the meeting.

“I think it certainly looks likely we will be able to have the meetings and I think it is positive because this is something which should be decided locally.”

Herald Series:

Robin Bennett.

Councillors are due to discuss the Local Plan at two meetings on Thursday.

Firstly, the council’s cabinet will discuss their options for its future in the morning, and then a full meeting of the council is due to follow at 6.30pm, where all councillors will be given their choice to vote on options A and B.

In SODC’s October meeting it faced the same two choices, and the cabinet had recommended all other councillors should vote in favour of withdrawing the plan and making changes to it, option B.

But during that meeting there was also a third choice, option C, which was to scrap the local plan and write an entirely new one.

But SODC staff said in a new report that neither option B or C are likely to be ‘practical or prudent given the secretary of state’s clear intention to intervene to prevent this from happening’.

The cabinet is recommended to follow option A and allow the plan to continue as it is – despite the fact the Liberal Democrats and Greens were both elected on a manifesto of scrapping the whole plan because they said it proposed too much housing on green space.

According to the report to the cabinet keeping the plan would be less risky than scrapping it, as it would allow SODC to keep control over the plan.

If the council were to vote to scrap it, the government would be likely to take control over the Local Plan away from SODC and give it to Oxfordshire County Council.

This is because the county council voted in March to take control of the plan if it was invited to by Mr Jenrick.

Also read: Bernie Sanders' brother Larry casts American election vote in Oxford

In that event, SODC would still have to pay out of its coffers for a public examination of the plan, as well any other work which needs to be done to it but would not have any control over it.

Mr Bennett added: “I think for us, it has always been about what outcome we can get to rather than how we reach it and that means getting improvements to the plan.

“In October, that was to withdraw the plan and that doesn’t seem to be favoured by the government.”

The report said: “If Option B is agreed and the Secretary of State invites Oxfordshire County Council to prepare and potentially adopt the Local Plan, all the costs incurred by the County Council could be reclaimed from this Council.”

One group standing firmly against adopting the Local Plan is the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

In a letter addressed to the council ahead of the meeting, its South Oxfordshire chairman Richard Harding said the plan was flawed and urged the council to find a way to write an alternative.