A PLANNED review of the Green Belt around Oxford has been labelled both a waste of money and a step to tackle housing demand.

It was announced this week that a review – the biggest in the Green Belt’s 50-year history – will begin next year and be complete by June.

It will be overseen by the Oxfordshire Growth Board, a partnership of local authorities, the Oxford universities and business.

Oxford City Council wants space around the city for 32,000 more homes in the next 17 years.

It this week urged a planning inspector to reject Cherwell District Council’s local plan for future development, as it provides no homes for the city.

It wants housing south of Grenoble Road, Greater Leys; Wheatley; Wick Farm south of Kidlington; Yarnton and north of Abingdon.

Until now, the four Conservative-run councils surrounding Labour-run Oxford have pledged to undertake their own reviews.

Yet the councils have a legal “duty to co-operate” and a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) study they commissioned said they had to double their planned numbers to 100,000.

Oxford Civic Society chairman Peter Thompson urged more not less protection and said: “The protection of our green spaces is of vital importance. What we want to see is a properly thought out and detailed and joined up plan between the five district councils.”

Helen Marshall, director of rural group CPRE Oxfordshire, said: “A review would be an unnecessary waste of public money.

“Any decision to go down this route should therefore be taken in a publicly accountable forum, rather than behind closed doors.”

Growth Board programme manager Paul Staines said: “It will look at the Green Belt as well as the potential for new settlements or extensions to existing areas.

“However, it will be for individual councils to make the decisions on whether sites are released from the Green Belt, or whether the Green Belt is expanded, in reviews of their local plans.”

City council leader Bob Price said: “The Green Belt reviewshould help unlock desperately needed housing land in sustainable locations adjacent to the boundary.”

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