PLANS to build 4,000 homes on green belt land south of Oxford will face two legal battles.
South Oxfordshire District Council today said it would take the Government to the High Court over the proposal to develop land south of Grenoble Road, while the Campaign to Protect Rural is planning a similar challenge.
The Government gave the go-ahead for housing on the land when it published its South East Plan.
The scheme is backed by Oxford City Council but the land is within South Oxfordshire’s boundaries and it has repeatedly voiced its opposition to building there.
Today the district council served papers on the Government after it received legal advice it said gave sufficient grounds to challenge and potentially quash the South East Plan.
Council leader Ann Ducker said: “We’ve fought these Government plans since the day they were first announced.
“We have always said it's not sustainable to build housing to the south of Grenoble Road, in South Oxfordshire, and that this housing is not needed.
“We're going all the way to the High Court on this.”
Angie Paterson, the cabinet member for planning, said: “We're totally opposed to development on this green belt land in South Oxfordshire.
“Oxford City Council, backed by the Government, wants to expand the city into South Oxfordshire without justification.
“The city should use underdeveloped land within its own boundaries to build housing, instead of trying to commandeer a large area of green belt, that provides the unique setting for Oxford and contains some beautiful South Oxfordshire villages.”
A CPRE Oxfordshire spokesman said it was preparing a legal battle as well.
Campaign manager Dr Helena Whall said: “We're asking the judge to quash the Secretary of State’s decision that 4,000 houses must be built on green belt land south of Oxford.
“Convincing evidence should then be obtained to show why they cannot be built in the city, or outside the green belt, and, if the green belt is the only option, that the most sustainable location has been identified.
“There's plenty of time to conduct this appraisal without affecting the provision of necessary housing for Oxford.
“Oxford’s housing allocation, including the urban extension, is for 12,000 houses by 2026. Of these just 4,000, or a third, were planned to be outside the city.
“To fit the South East Plan’s targets these would not need to be completed until 2019, whereas conducting a proper appraisal need not take more than a year or so from now.
“CPRE is also arguing that the Government is being completely inconsistent — since the green belt it supports was created specifically to contain Oxford’s expansion, and yet at the same time the Government is now proposing that Oxford’s wish to continue expanding is a reason to start dismantling it.
"It appears the Government also admits it has not looked thoroughly at alternatives, since it says that there may be ‘overwhelming evidence’ that the Grenoble Road site is unsuitable.”
“There are many reasons why the extension at Grenoble Road is a poor idea and an unsuitable site.
“Not only would important areas of Oxford’s Green Belt be lost forever, but the development could also harm the Leys, already a deprived area, by removing open spaces on its doorstep, and increasing the transport and highway difficulties the Leys face.
“Apart from that it would threaten local villages such as The Baldons to the south and Garsington and Horspath to the east, as well as placing further strain on the fragile infrastructure of the City itself.
“To put it in context, the 4,000-house extension would be as large as the town of Thame – and all on green belt land.”
Campaigners for affordable homes — including Oxford East MP Andrew Smith and Oxford City Council — argue that building thousands of new homes in Oxford, as well as south of Grenoble Road, is vital to safeguard the future of the city.
In Oxfordshire, 55,200 new homes must be built between 2006 and 2026 under the South East Plan.