A CONTROVERSIAL plan to build up to 3,000 homes at Chalgrove Airfield should still go ahead but with a backup site, council officers have said.

South Oxfordshire District Council’s cabinet will be asked to support building there – but with a reserve in place in case it fails an independent inspection – at a meeting next Thursday.

It will be the second time in just over seven weeks that the cabinet will be asked whether it is in favour of building at the airfield.

Back in March, the cabinet had recommended that the Local Plan, which outlines where building will take place until 2033, was accepted.

Officers had recommended a backup was added at that time but the council’s then leader John Cotton pushed through keeping the plan as it was.

However, the council voted against that and ordered the cabinet to rethink its recommendation.

Since then Mr Cotton has been replaced as Conservative group leader and council leader by Jane Murphy, his former deputy.

Since she was elected leader last month, Mrs Murphy has changed much of Mr Cotton's former cabinet, with just Felix Bloomfield, the cabinet member for planning who abstained on the Local Plan, and Lynn Lloyd remaining.

It is likely that Mrs Murphy's cabinet will back officers’ recommendation.

She accused Mr Cotton of asking the authority to take a ‘simply reckless and unnecessary risk’ by submitting the plan without an alternative site.

Any recommendation will be disappointing for campaigners who have rallied against any building at the airfield. More than 1,000 people submitted official opposition over it.

Additionally, Martin-Baker, an international ejector seat company based at the airfield, has said it is against any plan to move it from there before its lease runs out in 2063.

But Homes England, the Government agency which is in favour of building there, has threatened to use compulsory purchase powers to secure the land if necessary.

Homes England has promised about £90m for transport infrastructure around the site but the county council is opposed to the airfield plan as it is because it believed that funding would be about double that figure.

As part of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal – in which Oxfordshire has been given £215m to support 100,000 new homes across the county – Local Plans must be submitted before April 2019.

Council officers said retaining the airfield plan and submitting an alternative should meet that deadline, while providing 'an efficient and proactive route for the Local Plan whilst reducing the risk to the overall soundness of [it]'.