COUNCIL planners had to be reminded at a public meeting yesterday how much land they want to remove from Oxford’s Green Belt.

It was the Oxfordshire chairwoman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) who jogged the memories of Vale of White Horse District Council officials on the exact number of sites earmarked for potential future housing.

Helen Marshall was speaking at the public examination of the council’s Local Plan for development in Wantage.

Planning inspector Malcolm Rivett tried to ascertain how many patches of land the Vale has proposed removing from Oxford’s Green Belt in a recent review.

When the council’s planning policy manager Sophie Horsley seemed unable to provide an answer, the Oxfordshire CPRE chairwoman reminded her it was 18.

The question arose because Oxford City Council’s lawyers are calling for the examination to be delayed for at least six months so the council can work out how many houses it might ask the Vale to take to meet Oxford’s own housing shortage – it could be up to 3,000 more than in the current plan.

Mr Rivett wanted to work out where else the Vale could allocate the homes, including the Green Belt. If he decides the Vale’s plan is not flexible enough to accommodate extra housing for Oxford he may throw it out.

Mrs Marshall told Mr Rivett: “As far as we are aware there are 18 sites proposed to be taken out of the Green Belt but which are not yet allocated for housing. It is hard to locate these anywhere in the Local Plan and I think the public are not really aware of them.”

The hearing at The Beacon civic hall in Wantage continues this week and next. The Local Plan shows the locations where 20,560 new homes should be built.