CONTENTIOUS building at Chalgrove Airfield and Culham could be ditched by a council after its cabinet said it wants all available planning sites reconsidered.

Earlier this year South Oxfordshire District Council had wanted to submit its Local Plan by the summer. That will outline where it wants building in the district until 2033.

But a new cabinet appointed last month has now suggested that it applies for special Government dispensation to allow it to look at all 15 housing sites available to it again.

Its former leader John Cotton had hoped to submit the Local Plan to build 3,000 homes at Chalgrove Airfield and a further 3,500 in Culham, amongst other sites.

But he resigned in March and his successor Jane Murphy was appointed in April.

Following a meeting this evening, her cabinet will recommend to SODC councillors that the authority effectively restarts its Local Plan process.

Sites to look at would include four key developments currently in the council’s draft Local Plan at Culham, Chalgrove Airfield, Wheatley and Berinsfield.

Other sites also include Grenoble Road, a long-time favourite of Oxford City Council because of its proximity to housing, and Wick Farm, which is next to the city council’s Barton Park development.

Mr Cotton tweeted that the recommendation was ‘a good example of how not taking a decision is far easier than making your mind up’.

But the whole process hinges on whether the council is given permission by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

As part of the £215m Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, the county's city council and four district councils must have submitted their Local Plans by April 1, 2019.

Initially it was thought that deadline would cause the city council the most difficulty – its Local Plan is set to be submitted for independent examination by the end of 2018.

But now SODC wants a nine-month extension and to be allowed to submit its Local Plan by January 2020.

The news could be a relief for the many opponents of some of the developments – over 1,000 people signed petitions against the airfield site being used for housing, for example.

But if the Government refuses permission, the cabinet has recommended it presses on with the airfield plan and adds a reserve site in case it fails independent examination.

That means today’s news could be a false dawn for David Turner, Chalgrove’s Lib Dem district councillor and a strong opponent to the airfield plan.

He said building at the site – where international ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker is currently based – would be ‘foolhardy at best’.

In a statement the council said it has ‘a duty to ensure that its Local Plan clearly sets out how it will deliver housing growth.’

It continues: “The review taking place now is part of the ongoing process to ensure that it is robust and will pass the tests of ‘soundness’ when it is submitted for public examination.”

The council will be asked to support the cabinet’s recommendations at a meeting at the Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot next Tuesday.