A MAJOR Government review into housebuilding has warned that Oxfordshire cannot rely on large, single-developer estates to deliver housing quickly.

Former cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin’s draft findings, heard at an Oxfordshire Growth Board meeting on Monday, suggest local authorities should be encouraging small and medium-sized developments.

It comes after developers have cited housing need in the county for a series of huge sites, including 6,000 homes at Bicester Eco Town, 3,000-home Chalgrove Airfield and 3,300-home Great Western Park in Didcot.

Construction at the latter began in spring 2010, with still only about half of the homes finished.

Mr Letwin, whose review aims to tackle to national problem of ‘landbanking’ by developers, suggested smaller sites could be used as a ‘mechanism for addressing locally specific housing needs’.

Wantage housing campaigner Julie Mabberley said she agreed 'wholeheartedly' with Mr Lewtin's initial conclusion.

She went on: "Landbanking is a problem all over the county: developers get planning permissions on anything they like then build when they want to.

"If you put too much supply on the market then the prices comes down, so if it's all one developer they'll build inwards from both ends of a site to effectively make it two developments."

She said that having more companies building small portions of estates would help tackle this slow building.

South Oxfordshire District Council leader Jane Murphy agreed, saying: “I think it supports many of the arguments that our councillors have been making for years.

"It’s very difficult to bring forward housing and make it happen.”

A draft analysis for the county seen by the board, states: “Planning policy can potentially be used to avoid a situation whereby developers establish a local monopoly on development land. This could be achieved by setting a maximum percentage of the five-year housing land supply that can be controlled by any [developer].”

The board, which includes leaders of county, city and district councils, was recently given £215m to spend on infrastructure in exchange for getting 100,000 homes built in the county.

Growth board officers analysing the draft report also recommended using council reserves to buy land to help tackle the landbanking problem.

Mr Letwin, who visited Great Western Park as part of his review, is set to deliver his full report at the budget this Autumn.

Adrian Colwell, the board’s incoming ‘deal director’, said of the analysis: “In my view, the report is quite measured, but it seems to open up space for the small and medium-sized builders and new forms of housing innovation.

“The conclusion I draw is about further joint working to ensure that a range of housing is available through the local plans.”