COUNCILLORS from all sides condemned West Oxfordshire District Council's Local Plan after it was formally adopted at an extraordinary meeting.

The document, which sets out how the district can achieve economic growth and meet its housing target of 15,950 new homes between 2011 and 2031, was given the final seal of approval at a full council meeting on Thursday.

It identifies sites the council believes are best suited to new housing and accompanying infrastructure, while protecting against speculative and inappropriate development.

While the document was passed, 14 of the 38 councillors present either voted against the Local Plan or abstained - more than one third of the chamber.

Several councillors refused to vote with their parties, including Conservative district councillor for Eynsham and Cassington, Ed James, who voted against.

A total of 3,200 houses are planned for land near Eynsham, in the form of a 1,000-home development west of the village and a 2,200-home garden village north of the A40.

Mr James said: "I find it unimaginative that all of Oxford's unmet need for the district has been dumped on Eynsham.

"Just because they're being built for Oxford does not mean they need to be as close to Oxford as humanly possible.

"The district council doesn't seem to have done a massive amount of due diligence and come to the conclusion that they've reached the end of the Green Belt and slapped the housing there."

The district was asked to house a proportion of Oxford's 'unmet' need after the draft Local Plan was suspended in July 2015 due to the Inspector's concerns around the housing target.

It was re-submitted in March 2017 with an extra 5,450 new homes proposed, 13,200 make up West Oxfordshire's housing need.

Five strategic housing sites have been put forward to meet the target: one in East and West Witney, land east of Chipping Norton, and the two areas near Eynsham.

Several non-strategic sites also form part of the plan, including multiple areas around Carterton, Long Hanborough and Woodstock.

While 24 councillors voted for the plan, eight voted against, with six abstentions.

Liz Leffman, Liberal Democrat councillor for Charlbury and Finstock, abstained from Thursday's vote in protest against the government's National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF), which local authorities must comply with.

She said: "We're told we have to build x number of houses but there's absolutely nothing in the legislation that it needs to be accompanied by proper investment and infrastructure.

"I don't blame the administration of West Oxfordshire because it's not their fault - there's a lot in the NPPF that isn't right."

Several councillors put their concerns to one side to vote for the plan, including Merilyn Davies, Labour district councillor for Freeland and Hanborough, who has seen her ward targeted by speculative developers.

She said: "The plan is not perfect; it suffered from lack of scrutiny by councillors, very real concerns about infrastructure build have not been addressed, and objections from many councillors have been ignored.

"But this is only the beginning of the process which will see West Oxfordshire regain control of its future.

"It does not preclude challenges of developments contained in the plan, but provides a blueprint from which to start them, allowing residents to protect their villages and towns free from government interference.

"I knew the residents of Hanborough and Freeland wanted me to vote through this plan, I did so on their behalf, and for every other village across West Oxfordshire."

District council leader James Mills added: "It's a plan for the whole of West Oxfordshire and we have to take a balanced approach to all the aspects that go into making it.

"Some people have conflated the speculative development they have witnessed with the Local Plan - they may think if they fight the plan to a standstill they can avoid more houses.

"I don't think it's in anyone's interest to shy away from the fact that there's demand for housing in West Oxfordshire."