A CONTROVERSIAL plan to build 3,000 homes on Chalgrove Airfield could be forced through by a Government agency if a company continues to oppose it.

Martin-Baker, which manufactures ejector seats, has a lease on the site until 2063 and is looking to expand its operations there.

It told South Oxfordshire District Council that it would not agree to allow housing on it – but the Government’s Homes England agency has said it could seek a compulsory purchase order to buy the land it feels necessary.

If homes are eventually built on the site, they will be used to help Oxford’s unmet housing need.

John Cotton, the leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said he was ‘pleased’ Homes England had made the announcement but insisted there was a 'long way to go'.

He said: “The whole thing has got to go through a planning inquiry. We have been working with Homes England since they submitted (an initial plan) a couple of years ago. It clearly has the potential to be a major development in the next 10 to 20 years.”

The site could form part of SODC’s Local Plan, which could be completed over the next year.

The land is currently owned by the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency.

Homes England said it was ‘disappointed’ Martin-Baker had rejected an offer to work together but would, for the time being, look to work with the company to buy the lease.

It then said if that failed then it would look to use compulsory orders on the land.

A fortnight ago, residents said they were happy the company had defied requests to relinquish the land.

Villagers said they felt 700 letters against the housing plan written to Martin-Baker’s chief executive, James Martin, may have persuaded him to defy Homes England’s request.

The chairman of Chalgrove Airfield Action Group, Paul Boone, said: “We were very happy that Martin-Baker had stated that they had no intention to release the land because they have expansion plans of their own.

“Even Martin-Baker referred to it as a pyrotechnic facility. If you build houses and there are noise complaints you could have Martin-Baker relocating.”

He claimed that Homes England were hoping to ‘save face’ by continuing the project and said it had already spent £1.5m on the plan.

But in a statement, Homes England stated: “Homes England confirm that the Shareholder Board of Martin-Baker Aircraft Company Limited (MBACL) has rejected our latest formal approach to work with us on developing plans for a housing led development at Chalgrove Airfield in Oxfordshire.

“While we are disappointed by this decision we will continue to look to work with MBACL to agree private treaty terms, if at all possible.

"However, as a last resort, Homes England confirms we will seek all necessary approvals for the use of our statutory powers including, as appropriate, compulsory purchase orders (CPO)s to bring this much needed new housing development to fruition.

“Moving forward, as Homes England prepares the detailed planning application for our proposed development, we will always seek to ensure that MBACL can remain as a successful business on the airfield.”