FAR fewer homes are needed in Oxfordshire than first thought, prompting calls to scrap plans for new building projects in the Green Belt.

A new Government method for calculating housing need has revealed the county, which had been planning for 100,000 homes over the next 20 years, actually needs to build around 68,000.

Each district's required need has been reduced, with Oxford needing to build around half its original quota, and campaigners have called for authorities to re-think plans to tear up the Green Belt.

Oxford City Council said the new figures were only a 'baseline' and did not take into account employment growth nor 'reflect the demand for housing' in Oxfordshire.

But its leader Bob Price said it would review the figures before assessing what action was needed.

South Oxfordshire District Council leader John Cotton said the new figures may lead to plans for 3,500 homes in protected land in Culham to be scrapped, but that each authority would need to decide on its own plans.

The original total - based on a independent Strategic Housing Market Assessment in 2014 - has long been criticised by planning experts, MPs and campaigners.

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran said: "These figures prove what I and others have been saying for years: that the SHMA figures have always been way out of kilter with both need and deliverability.

"I hope off the back of this report all councils will look again at their housing allocations, especially any sites on Green Belt land, and adjust accordingly."

Since 2014 the county's authorities have been planning to build 5,003 homes per year but the new Government figures reveal the county only needs to build 3,415 a year.

The SHMA had ordered Oxford City Council to find space for 1,400 homes a year up to 2031.

The city argued it was unable to meet the target and after a series of squabbles the neighbouring districts - apart from SODC - agreed to take on Oxford's unmet need.

Cherwell has proposed to build 4,400 homes north of Oxford - to make up this need - and Green Belt campaigners said the latest figures proved they weren't needed.

Giles Lewis, chairman of Begbroke and Yarnton Green Belt Campaign, said it was 'good news' for the future of the Green Belt.

He said: "Realistically there is no need for Cherwell to build houses that trample over the Green Belt around Begbroke, Yarnton and Kidlington to meet Oxford's so-called 'unmet housing need'.

"A reduced number can be accommodated in the city itself."

But he warned the consultation provided 'flexibility' for ambitious local authorities and hoped Oxfordshire's councils would stick to the Government's new figures.

South Oxfordshire District Council leader John Cotton said the revised figures finally provided an 'achievable' target.

He said: "We are very pleased, the SHMA produced numbers the county was never going to achieve, it was an impossible target and we were always going to fall short.

"But we mustn't let the Government use it as an excuse not to provide the appropriate infrastructure, we still need the money and still need to build a large amount of houses."

SODC is due to consider its own Local Plan - for 22,500 new homes - next month, and the other districts are all at different stages of the process.

But Mr Cotton said 'chaos would reign' in the district if the council pulled its current Local Plan and gave rise to speculative planning applications that could threaten villages across the county.

He said local authorities had to work to the current numbers before the consultation comes into effect, and then review allocations later.

He added that plans for 3,500 homes in Green Belt land in Culham, for example, could end up being scrapped.

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said: "The figures in the consultation document are a first stage and for consultation.

"They don’t as yet reflect the reality of economic growth, or demand for housing that is affordable that we know local people, business and public services in Oxfordshire want."

The Government's consultation runs until November and the new numbers could come into force in March 2018.