COMMUNITIES north of Oxford are close to their fundraising target for a legal challenge against plans for nearly 4,000 homes on the Green Belt after being told to ‘lawyer up’.

Residents in Yarnton and Begbroke have almost reached their £9,500 target and hired planning lawyers to object to the Cherwell District Council consultation, which ends on Tuesday.

A campaign group in Kidlington has also revealed plans to start fundraising and another group in Cutteslowe have also started.

It comes after campaigners claimed council leader Barry Wood told residents to ‘lawyer up’ at a heated meeting last month.

As part of Oxford’s unmet housing need, Cherwell has agreed to build 4,400 homes north of the city, with 3,900 of those on protected land.

But with the city’s Local Plan and infrastructure improvements yet to be finalised, villagers have sought legal advice to challenge the allocations and prove it does not meet the ‘exceptional circumstances’ needed to build in the Green Belt.

Chairman of the Begbroke and Yarnton Green Belt campaign, Giles Lewis, said: “We were effectively told to ‘get lawyered up’ but we have been convinced for sometime that this is the way to go.

“We are quite humbled by how many people have contributed and are well on our way to achieving the target.

“They have rushed to come up with this plan for 4,000 homes in the Green Belt and we think we can challenge the procedure.

He added: “Our initial advice suggests the sands are shifting underneath Cherwell District Council.”

The plans would see a 1,950-home community built on land east of the A44 at Begbroke, while 1,180 homes, and another have been allocated to land north of Oxford between Cutteslowe and the A34, including North Oxford Golf Club.

A further 530 homes are planned west of the A44 near Yarnton, with 330 more on the south and east boundaries of Kidlington

Kidlington Development Watch member Linda Ward said the campaign group would join their neighbouring villages on the fundraising trail once the consultation has closed.

Another group based in Cutteslowe are also understood to be raising money to add legal clout to the communities’ argument.

Mrs Ward said: “It has to be combined effort if we are to stand up to these rich developers and these plans - the gauntlet has been laid down.

“Once we have finished with our consultation response we will look at how we can rise to the challenge and raise money.

“It’s a disappointing stance from the council leader and he was booed, heckled and slow-clapped when he addressed the public meeting.

She added: “Taking this massive amount of land out of the Green Belt is disgraceful - it’s clear it’s down to the community to fight it.”

In response to an open letter from campaigners, Mr Wood added that proposals would be decided following examinations from a government inspector and the views of residents would remain significant throughout.

He added: “You can see that the views of residents, local councillors, and parish councils are and will continue to be significant as this process unwinds.”