VILLAGERS have accused Oxford of protecting its historic skyline and parks by pushing thousands of new homes into the Green Belt.
Vale of White Horse District Council has drawn up a list of possible sites to build 3,000 of the 32,000 new homes Oxford city is expected to need by 2031.
The city council said it could only find space for 10,000 of these homes, leaving neighbouring authorities to accommodate the rest, with a new report from the Vale flagging up the fringes of Oxford and areas around Abingdon as suitable places to meet the need.
However, residents from across the Vale, including Radley, Cumnor and Sunningwell, packed into a cabinet meeting yesterday to tell leaders that the plans threaten to overwhelm their villages.
Sunningwell Parish Councillor Joanne Blower told a packed meeting room that plans to protect the city’s open spaces over neighbouring Green Belts were very Oxford-centric.
She added: “Much is made of the need to protect the visual impact on historic Oxford.
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“What is the Vale doing to ensure that green spaces in Oxford are not protected at the expense of the Green Belt and welfare of rural Green Belt communities in the district?”
Priscilla Dudding, chairwoman of Radley Parish Council’s neighbourhood planning group, said the village feared it would be swallowed up by new developments.
She added: “Further substantial development within the parish boundaries would almost certainly destroy Radley as a village standing separately from its neighbours.”
Other areas flagged up as possible sites for new homes in the report, published on Monday, include villages such as Kennington, Kingston Bagpuize and Wootton.
However, the report said it was “unclear” whether developments in other areas of the Vale, such as Wantage, Didcot, Grove and Faringdon, would help meet the housing need.
The Vale’s Local Plan put forward five sites around Cumnor to be removed from the Green Belt, one of which was earmarked for 200 new homes.
Speaking after the meeting Cumnor Parish Councillor Dudley Hoddinott said he was very concerned the village could swamped.
He said: “I’m very concerned. There are five sites around the village that could be released from the Green Belt, and they would then have no protection from future development.
“It would swamp the village, especially the primary school.”
According to an assessment, Oxford will need between 24,000 and 32,000 new homes by 2031.
But the city council estimated neighbouring authorities would have to help find space for between 14,000 and 22,000 of those.
But this figure has been disputed by the other councils councils, which said Oxford could build 16,000 homes if sites such as Oxford Stadium and Oxford Golf Club were developed.
Colin Thomas of Sunningwell Parish Against Damaging the Environment (SPADE) added: “Now is the time to protect Green Belt, not to make empty statements of apparent support whilst planning for its obliteration in North Abingdon.”
Applause broke out after Mr Thomas’ speech in the packed public gallery, which was so full more chairs had to be brought in.
Vale leader Matthew Barber insisted that no decision over sites had been made and said the report would be passed to the council’s scrutiny panel for further discussion on the September 20.
He told the meeting: “We are not endorsing any particular area for housing.”
The cabinet agreed Oxford’s unmet housing need might be between 8,000 to 16,000 new homes and endorsed the plan in the report to meet this need.
However, Oxford City Council leader councillor Bob Price said the Vale had rushed ahead with these suggestions before the county had flagged up sites suitable for large-scale developments.
He added: “We have made it absolutely clear that we think we can meet our housing need by developing the two major northern and southern sites.
“They [districts councils] should be looking at significant urban extensions to the city.
“Going ahead with a few developments around the villages will destroy the environment.”