The Vale of White Horse District Council is set to begin a controversial search for potential sites to build up to 4,000 new homes to address Oxford’s unmet housing need, including Green Belt land between Oxford and Abingdon


Oxford Mail:

Matthew Barber, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council

I have written in these pages many times before about the need to build new homes in Oxfordshire and the difficulty of balancing the incredibly high numbers that our county is burdened with while preserving the fantastic and varied character of the numerous communities affected by housing growth.

The latest challenge on this front comes from Oxford City Council who claims that it simply cannot accommodate its own housing need within the city boundary.

The Vale of White Horse, along with every other council in Oxfordshire, has been working with Oxford city to establish the amount of housing that may need to be located outside the city itself and where best to locate it.

Most reasonable people would accept that Oxford is unlikely to be able to deliver the minimum 24,000 new homes required of it by 2031. What is unclear, however, is how many it can deliver.

The vale has, therefore, taken the additional step of publicly acknowledging the council has a legal obligation to cooperate with Oxford city in order to try to help meet the housing target.

The vale district council has and will continue to press the city council to provide robust evidence to demonstrate it has left no stone unturned in seeking to address its own housing target before looking to its neighbours to assist.

This will mean some difficult choices for those in the city, but they are no more than others have already been through in the Vale and other districts to deal with the housing pressures that we already face.

The vale continues to work jointly with other councils through the Oxfordshire Growth Board to resolve the crisis, but in addition we have embarked upon our own programme of scrutinising Oxford city’s position, providing our own evidence for the number of homes required outside of the city, and then looking at where they could be sited.

The Vale has decided to make the programme very public to ensure that communities have the opportunity to engage with the process at the earliest stage.

The important thing about all of these decisions is not about the numbers, but to consider the impact on communities across the district.


Oxford Mail:

Debby Hallett, Vale Liberal Democrat district councillor for Botley & Sunningwell

SEVERAL things need to happen before considering any action that will permanently destroy the Green Belt.

Oxford must demonstrate it has done all it can to meet its own housing need.

It’s a generally held opinion among the neighbouring districts that Oxford City aren’t doing enough to help themselves. For example, extant city policies intended to protect their views by restricting building in some areas, and the city hasn’t been willing to review them.

Another example is that Oxford is continuing to develop new employment areas, knowing that they haven’t enough houses to support them.

Secondly there must be a proper, independent, public review of the whole Oxford Green Belt, where the questions asked are honestly answered.

There’s no sign of that forthcoming – consultants are working on this behind closed doors.

Without such a review, how can the neighbouring districts include Green Belt land in their options to meet Oxford’s unmet housing need?

Also Oxford must cooperatively engage in analysis of its true unmet need, and collaborate with neighbouring districts to determine where new housing would best be placed.

Any proposal to simply divide the housing numbers equally among the four districts seems amateurish, unfair, and ineffective.

I have read that the city’s housing need is greatest near its employment sites, on the eastern side of the city.

Consideration of sites’ proximity to jobs and provision of transport is relevant.

If we build somewhere other than on the eastern edge of the city, then Oxford needs a modern and effective transport system to get people from home to work, not an old system that continues to rely on the over-capacity A34 and local roads.

Finally, I think the authors of the original Green Belt legislation were prescient.

We are a small country with a growing population, and conurbation of the city and towns and coalescence of villages is tempting – but the Green Belts were supposed to be permanent.