OXFORD’S Green Belt should never be built on, according to conservationists. But green space separating Oxford from Abingdon, and land dividing up towns across the Vale, could soon be eaten up by development.

Residents have been taking a close look at the Vale of White Horse District Council’s draft Local Plan, showing where 20,500 new homes will be built by 2031.

And they are staggered by the scale of development which, they say, will turn some villages into small towns.

Harwell parish seems to have been particularly hard hit, with residents facing another 4,500 homes within its boundaries, and villagers in Radley are understandably concerned about the proposal for 800 homes that would join their village onto Abingdon.

Villagers, including author Philip Pullman, do not want their green and pleasant land spoiled, but council officers have had to draw up the plan because the local authority is already falling behind government Strategic Housing Market Assessment targets.

With thousands of new jobs being created in the Science Vale Enterprise Zone, new homes are desperately needed and there is a serious lack of affordable housing.

Parish and town council leaders around the Vale will demand better road networks to cope with the extra traffic the new homes will generate and residents’ groups will continue to fight to oppose housing schemes which threaten to rob villages of their identity.

When residents oppose such housing developments they are sometimes referred to as nimbys, but it is not surprising that people are protesting when some villages are being turned into small towns.

The end of the consultation process on this Local Plan is by no means the end of the story, and there will be many more twists and turns of the planning process before all these new homes are finally built.