A CONTROVERSIAL move to build 4,400 homes on Oxford’s Green Belt is a step closer after a planning inspector agreed with the reason for building them.

More than 1,500 residents have said they do not want the new homes, due to be built north of Oxford in areas around Begbroke, Kidlington and Yarnton. But Cherwell District Council agreed to include the proposal in a key planning document in February.

Following a hearing last month, planning inspector Paul Griffiths decided Cherwell council’s effort to shoulder some of Oxford’s housing needs in its Local Plan is sound in principle.

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran is opposed to the plan, along with an alliance of local groups which has united to fight the project.

Opponents to the house building said they are ‘disappointed’ at the inspector ‘waving’ the Local Plan through. They include some members of the North Oxford Golf Club, which could be swallowed up to build 1,180 of the homes.

The city council said it has too little space to include all the homes it would need to build to meet its housing needs and so is reliant on other districts helping it out.

The Cherwell Development Watch said the need for 15,000 homes in Oxford which the city council has said it cannot meet is based on old figures from 2014.

Giles Lewis, of the Cherwell Development Watch Alliance, said: “We will continue to oppose these ill-conceived plans and will be putting our case at the full hearing in the New Year.

“Three-quarters of the residents of Oxfordshire do not want their Green Belt built on. Residents have clearly demonstrated their criticism of Cherwell`s plans and their opposition to them. All elected representatives at parish and district level have done the same, as has our sitting MP. When will we be heard?”

An email Mr Griffiths sent to Cherwell council this week reads: “It is clear to me that meeting Oxford’s unmet need could, as a general principle, constitute an exceptional circumstance that would justify an alteration to Green Belt boundaries.

“Second, I am content for the main hearings to proceed on the basis that Cherwell’s ‘share’ of that unmet need is 4,400 homes, as a working assumption.”

The district council’s Local Plan will be subject to meetings next month to decide whether it is acceptable.

Tom Slingsby, Cherwell council spokesman, said: “Cherwell is waiting for the hearings to be arranged and will respond to the inspector in due course.”

While Susan Brown, the city council’s leader, said she was ‘pleased’ by the inspector’s decision.

Ms Brown said: “It has long been clear that Oxford has limited capacity for new housing and there is a need for planned urban extensions to provide homes to sustain the city and neighbourhoods into the future.”