A PLANNING inspector has approved plans to build 150 new homes in Didcot after a developer's controversial plans to build 176 homes on a 16th century woodland site were turned down.

Plans for the homes and a country park on land at Ladygrove in Didcot were rejected in October last year, on the grounds that the development was not needed because of the neighbouring expansion of Ladygrove, which will deliver 1,800 new homes, schools, shops and other facilities over the next decade.

Since that rejection, Manor Oak Homes has issued amended plans, which would now put 150 homes on the site, with the aim that the reduced number would help cut any impact on trees and the adjacent landscape and countryside.

Planning inspector Philip Major has decided to allow the appeal to be made for construction of 150 homes, 60 of which would be affordable, along with open spaces and a country park.

He has explained that, although he understands there are concerns that housing growth needs to be managed, more housing is also needed.

In the Appeal Decision document, Mr Major said: "The lack of a demonstrable five-year supply of deliverable housing land is a significant situation.

"It does not mean that housing could, or should, be provided anywhere, but it does mean that suitable sites should be given proper consideration. It is my judgement that, in order to enhance delivery of much-needed housing, this site is acceptable and would not cause unacceptable harm to the objectives of the development plan or the delivery of the wider Didcot Garden Town."

The district council said it objected to the original plans because the site was not allocated for housing development and the council considered that it would have a harmful impact on the local area, including the setting of the nearby North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Now authority is now taking legal advice.

In a statement, South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) said: "The developer appealed against our decision and the Planning Inspector has concluded that the development of 150 homes should go ahead and has approved the application.

"We are obviously disappointed with this decision and are currently taking legal advice to consider our options."

Parishioners were relieved last year when SODC rejected the plans for 176 homes. Long Wittenham Parish Council objected to the plans on the grounds the development would be a duplication of the neighbouring Ladygrove expansion, that it would lead to more traffic passing though the village and that it would harm the natural environment including Wittenham Clumps.

At the time, parish council chairman Gordon Rogers said that refusal of the development was a 'big relief'.

Councillor Rodgers said: “We are deeply disappointed with the decision, because all the plans do is duplicate what we have already got and it can harm the local environment. I think people in Appleford and Sutton Courtenay will also be concerned about the creation of extra traffic in the area.”