A COUNCIL leader has said she is 'extremely disappointed' after a housing inspector signed off on an unusually high target for the district.

South Oxfordshire District Council's Liberal Democrat leader Sue Cooper said the Government-appointed assessor had approved 'digging up the Green Belt'.

She spoke after Jonathan Bore published his initial conclusions on the Local Plan for development which her council inherited from the previous Tory leadership and was forced to submit to him by a minister.

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Ms Cooper also hit out at the inspector for endorsing the idea that her district needed to build extra homes especially for people who work in Oxford.

She said: "Oxford maintains the claim it needs a lot of housing, and the very same inspector who looked at their report six months ago confirmed it does.

"However, even if the city requires that many homes, we do not need to dig up six Green Belt sites.

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"Everything is so over-the-top and it does not look forward – it looks backwards."

Mr Bore set out his initial conclusions on the plan for 22,775 new homes to be built from now until 2035 in a letter to the council last week, and backed what he admitted was a high housing target.

Mr Bore, who was appointed by Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick in February as the minister forced the council to submit the plan for approval, also identified changes that he thought must be made for the plan to be considered legally sound.

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On the number of homes proposed for the district he said: “I have given careful consideration to the evidence at the hearings but I am not recommending any further change to these modified figures.

“They are higher than would arise from the standard method, but there are a number of strong reasons why this should be so.”

The plan allows for 17,825 homes to be built 'for South Oxfordshire', and another 4,950 to cover Oxford’s 'unmet housing need' over the next 15 years.

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The unprecedented high number of homes has received heavy criticism from councillors who argue that South Oxfordshire should not be building houses just to house people who work in Oxford.

To support the national objective to boost the supply of housing, Mr Bore confirmed that this would require changes of the Green Belt boundaries in the county, which many campaigners have labelled as the ‘devastation of swathes of beautiful Oxfordshire countryside’.

Ms Cooper, who remained very involved in the three-week examination carried out last month, commented: "If we plant houses all over the county instead of crops, we will end up short of farmland – this plan does not consider the environment and people's change in attitude over the last decade.

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"An enormous disappointment is the decision to chop up so much of the Green Belt particularly when the Government has promised to protect it.

"Even those who wrote it put in some sites as sacrificial lambs and relied on the inspector to remove them, but he has not."

Ms Cooper also said it was 'mad' to build homes on Chalgrove Airfield – a scheme already being planned by another Government agency, Homes England.

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District councillor for the ward David Turner, who also spoke in the first week of the examination, said there was a 'wealth of objections' that build a 'strong case' against the plan for 3,000 new houses.

Mr Turner added: "The inspector has not taken on board our environmental arguments.

"The plan would turn us into a town rather than a village, which we detest.

"More than 300 new homes are being built already, so we are already doing our bit for South Oxfordshire and Oxford."

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Mr Bore, who was also the planning inspector who signed off London’s Grenfell Tower refurbishment, will not allow comments on his initial findings.

Instead, there will be an opportunity this autumn for the public to share opinions on the main changes that will be finalised following his instructions.

District councillor Anne-Marie Simpson said: “We will encourage our residents to provide feedback on the main modifications.

"So many people have been involved in the process so far, and it is important that they continue to make their voices heard in such an important process for our communities.”