CONTROVERSIAL plans for thousands of new homes near Culham look set to go ahead – but only if a new bridge is built between the village and Didcot.

Plans for 3,500 homes at Culham were included in the final version of South Oxfordshire District Council's (SODC) local plan as part of a blueprint for 22,500 homes to be built across the district by 2033.

The final version was published last week after thousands of people responded to a consultation on the local plan, with many calling for the Culham scheme to be dropped as they believe it will dwarf the village.

But it was also revealed that Oxfordshire County Council believes more studies into the potential impact of the homes on transport infrastructure need to happen before they are built.

People also raised concerns about whether the area will be able to cope with a influx of extra people.

But SODC leader John Cotton remained bullish about the need for the Culham site as he defended the plan.

He said: “I recognise we cannot please everybody and there will still be opposition.

“But this is a plan for the whole district and I think we have got support for it.”

Mr Cotton admitted that the roads, schools and other infrastructure will struggle to cope with such a vast influx of new people and said very few homes in Culham could be built without a new Thames crossing linking Didcot and the village.

Mr Cotton said: "The traffic recently has been horrendous.

"I am pushing as hard as I can for the bridge to be built before any houses."

The finalised plan has also seen an extension in the land being set aside for the bridge, after Historic England said it would object to the crossing being built near historical sites.

Mr Cotton said: “There is no firm route at this point – we are still looking at various options on what is the most suitable and I'm sure the views of Historic England will be taken in to account as part of that.”

He added it was ‘not unimaginable’ that a new bridge could be built in ‘four or five years’, particularly if a recent bid for government funding is successful.

But he also admitted there was unlikely to be substantial house-building until 2023 or 2024 at the earliest.

Culham resident Tobias Pejkovic, of the Save Culham Green Belt group, believes SODC is stuck in a ‘chicken and egg situation.’

The campaigner said: “They can’t build the homes because the roads can’t cope but equally they can’t get funding for new roads without promising thousands of new homes.”

Sophie Wilson, who responded to the consultation, said: "I strongly oppose to the proposed 3,500 homes and removing the Culham farmland site from the green belt.

"The land at Culham safeguards the characters of Abingdon town and the villages and the countryside and should not be destroyed."

Culham resident Jonathan Bacon added in his consultation reponse: "We believe that by removing such huge part of the land from the green belt, SODC is sacrificing the welfare and well-being of existing residents, and is depriving future residents of what makes South Oxfordshire a great place to raise a family. "

Vale of White Horse District Council has also finalised the second part of its local plan, outlining the detailed policies the council will use to decide future planning applications.

Both plans are now out for further consultation for the next six weeks and will be submitted to the Government’s planning inspector for approval in the new year.

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