CAMPAIGNERS have accused a council of asking a planning inspector to 'write a blank cheque' for thousands of homes at Dalton Barracks.

David Reed continued his examination hearings into part two of Vale of White Horse District Council's local plan last week, including 1,200 houses at the site near Abingdon.

Oxford Mail: RC..Dalton Barracks bomb story..12/02/2008.

Mr Reed said he faced a 'conundrum' as the plan referred to 1,200 homes but there was a 'clear assumption' thousands more would be built at the site and the release of green belt land would be for this purpose.

He asked: "What am I judging, 1,200 homes or 4,500?"

Michael Tite, from the Oxfordshire Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), argued the council had not presented proper evidence for any more than the lower figure. He added: "You are essentially being asked to write a blank cheque."

This was echoed by several developers giving evidence, with Nathan McLoughlin from McLoughlin Planning calling it a 'mess' with the thousands of houses 'stalking around in the background' of the current proposal.

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Vale planning policy officer Andrew Maxted defended the council's policy, however, and said they were trying to provide a comprehensive document that acknowledged the potential for the land once it is vacated by the Ministry of Defence in 2029.

He added: "I am confident of the evidence in so far as it relates to the release of green belt land."

Jan Banfield, speaking on behalf of Wootton and St Helen Without neighbourhood plan group, said residents were not against development at the site but were concerned by the scale and feared Shippon could merge with the new housing.

The land, which includes Abingdon Airfield, will help the district council meet an extra housing allocation of 2,200 it has agreed to take on to help Oxford fulfil its unmet housing need, which was calculated by a government-backed housing assessment.

Along with the 1,200 homes planned for Dalton Barracks, the plan also includes 600 homes adjacent to Kingston Bagpuize with Southmoor as well as smaller sites at East Marcham and East Hanney, which were all discussed as part of last week's examination. The next round of hearings is planned for September.