MORE than 800 people watched the first week of the long-awaited examination into controversial plans for thousands of new homes built on huge chunks of Oxfordshire countryside.

The examination into South Oxfordshire’s Local Plan, which could see 28,500 new homes in the district by 2035, is the first in the country to be carried out online following the Covid-19 crisis.

The series of public discussions on it started last Tuesday and could last for another three weeks.

Many residents concerned with the major proposals logged in to view the live feed shown on YouTube, with more than 150 of them subscribing to watch the sessions regularly.

Councillor Anne-Marie Simpson highlighted that this is a big step forward to transparency.

The cabinet member for planning at South Oxfordshire District Council added: “Any Local Plan is incredibly important for its local area, so it is good that people have the opportunity to witness the examination hearings.

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“I am very pleased that a lot of people are taking the time to watch the live feed and I think that this is a very positive step in ensuring the transparency of issues that like this.”

South Oxfordshire's Local Plan gained 'national spotlight' after Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick ordered the council to adopt it by December this year after months of uncertainty over its future.

Mr Jenrick stepped in after South Oxfordshire’s Lib Dem and Green-led council had wanted to throw it out.

At the time councillors said there were strong concerns about too many homes being built in the Green Belt and a desire for tougher environmental standards for buildings.

Mr Jenrick’ s heavy-handedness was brought up in the very first discussion on Tuesday last week.

Other vital matters discussed during week one included housing requirement, housing trajectory and supply.

Contributors invited to speak were made by 60 organisations, public bodies and individuals.

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Based on a schedule provided by the district council, today participants will focus on the Green Belt.

Tomorrow planning inspector Jonathan Bore, who is leading the examination, will ask councillors about climate change mitigation and about employment opportunities on Friday.

Once the hearings have concluded, the Mr Bore may suggest changes for consultation prior to producing an Inspector’s Report later this year.

This will finalise the local plan, before it is brought to councillors for a decision on adoption.

Two months ago Mr Bore also inspected and signed off Oxford City Council’s Local Plan, which includes 724 homes in the Green Belt and is dependent on surrounding districts like South Oxfordshire building homes to ‘meet Oxford’s need’.

The independent inspector was also appointed by the Secretary of State.

To find out more about South Oxfordshire's Local Plan and how to log in to watch the live sessions visit