A PLANNING inspector heard evidence into whether building 4,400 homes on the green belt north of Oxford is legally sound.

Cherwell District Council agreed to the proposal to take on Oxford’s unmet housing need in February, despite considerable opposition.

A planning inspector spent Friday hearing informal submissions from council officers, representatives and campaigners.

Paul Griffiths was appointed to undertake the examination to decide on the soundness of the Cherwell Local Plan.

He has to decide whether the proposal is justified, could be delivered in a timely way and consistent with national policy.

If he decides it is not, it would have significant implications for planning across Oxfordshire. District, city and county councils are all working together to form joint planning projects until 2050 and have been provided with £215m in the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.

Cherwell Council said Oxford is ‘clearly unable’ to meet housing demand and that plans to build on the green belt are justified.

When Cherwell Council approved its Local Plan, 1,500 people had formally opposed it going ahead.

And Michael Tyce, a member of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, said the process has ‘not been open, public or transparent’.

He said: "Our big concern is that the Growth Board acted as though it were a local authority setting a strategic plan for the whole of Oxfordshire but having none of the accountability."

But those claims were disputed by council officers.

John Disley, the county council’s policy and strategy manager, said: "It was not a process looking at Oxfordshire; it was [looking into] simply Oxford's needs.”

He said the conclusion that Cherwell should take 4,400 of Oxford’s homes has previously been given 'comprehensive airing, given the controversy in the area'.

Campaigner Alan Lodwick said Cherwell Council was choosing to put the ‘cart before the horse’ by pledging to accept the homes that he said would ‘irrecoverably change’ the nature of the area north of Oxford.

Mr Griffiths told the hearing at Cherwell Council's headquarters in Bodicote that he will present findings by the end of October.