A HOUSING plan detailing where 30,000 homes can be built in South Oxfordshire has been approved after a year-long delay.

The South Oxfordshire Local Plan, described as a ‘plan that no-one wanted’, was adopted by the district’s councillors after a tense and long meeting held on Thursday night.

Many of the new estates in the plan will now be built around the outskirts of Oxford, including on sites at Grenoble Road and near the Sandhills estate.

Others include plans to develop Chalgrove Airfield into a ‘new town’, and extra housing near Culham.

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The council’s Liberal Democrat-Green majority had hoped to scrap the plan and overhaul it due to concerns about how many new homes were being built on Green Belt land, countryside which is supposed to be free from development.

The Government stepped in last year to prevent them from doing this, or from discussing the plan in any way.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, then told the council it had to adopt the Plan by December 2020 or risk its powers to decide planning applications for the area being taken out of its hands.

As the council met on Thursday night, members of the public petitioned their elected representatives to reject the Plan again and ignore the warnings from Government.

Among them was Richard Harding of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, who said the housing numbers in the plan were ‘far too high’, as they did not reflect the predicted population growth for Oxfordshire.

MAPPED: Where new homes will be built in South Oxfordshire

He added: “Six years has produced a plan nobody wants. Six wasted years.”

Eugenie Buchan asked the councillors not to abstain on the vote, as this would lead it to be adopted.

She said: “We have a vote about the way this vote might go, and I would ask one thing – please do not abstain.

“If you think this plan benefits your ward then vote for it, but if you feel as most of us do that it will damage the district and the county you should vote against it.”

“Do not create any doubt in our minds about your commitment towards us.”

But when it came to the vote, nine councillors did choose to abstain, with 17 voting in favour of it, and seven voting against it, including the council’s Lib Dem leader Sue Cooper.

During the debate on the plan, Ms Cooper said she felt like the council had been ‘bullied’ into adopting the plan by the Government.

She added it was ‘downright stupid’ to build homes with gas boilers, which would need to be retrofitted with new heating systems in the future.

Herald Series:

Sue Cooper

Ms Cooper said: “In the light of the climate emergency we now have, please do something about building regulations now.”

Green councillor Robin Bennett said: "There is no way this plan will not become part of the development in our district – this Government will see to it."

Many of the Lib Dem and Green councillors referred to the plan as the ‘Conservative Local Plan’, but Conservative councillors objected to this.

Tory councillor Caroline Newton said she did not celebrate seeing the countryside ‘bulldozed’ or ‘concreted’ over.

She added: “It would be lovely if we could remove all the sites in this local plan that cause anxiety, but what would we be left with? Nothing it would seem apart from Berinsfield Garden Village which is the only site the administration supports.”

She also said she had concerns about the plans for Chalgrove Airfield, similar to those expressed by councillors of other political parties.

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Oxfordshire’s bus companies have recently said that running a new bus service to the site when homes are finished would not be sustainable.

This could mean the new homes built at the site will be dependent on using cars rather than public transport.

Labour’s Mocky Khan said he welcomed the plan as it would benefit Didcot, and would secure a £218m government grant to build infrastructure around the town.

The Government confirmed the grant from the Housing Infrastructure Fund would be jeopardised if the plan did not go ahead in a letter to the council earlier this month.

Work on the plan started in 2014, and it sets out where new homes in South Oxfordshire can be built between 2020 and 2035.

The total costs of preparing the plan over this time is estimated to be £6m.

The Local Plan makes room for a total of 30,000 homes across South Oxfordshire, but approximately 16,000 of these have either already been built, are currently built, or have planning permission.

The Greens and Lib Dems had hoped to replace the Plan with one of their own making, but because of the Government order preventing them from discussing the plan, they were prevented from doing this.

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