OPPONENTS to development on Oxford’s Green Belt have offered stark warnings of its potential impact after a key development plan was approved.

South Oxfordshire District Council signed off its new Local Plan last week, nine months after it rejected the first draft.

It earmarks seven sites for critical large-scale development until 2034, with six of those lying in the Green Belt.

Michael Tyce of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) compared building on the Green Belt to ‘putting two thumbs in an orange and peeling it away from Oxford outwards’.

Mr Tyce also slammed the dependence of the county’s councils on the Oxfordshire Growth Deal, which has seen the Government provide them with an initial £215m to boost infrastructure for 100,000 new homes.

Mr Tyce said: “Pulling away the Green Belt is only motivated by money.

“It is clearly and absolutely against the public interest and against the locals’ wishes. The only thing motivating this is the Growth Deal.”

During last week’s meeting, senior councillors said they would be opposed to any changes to the Local Plan because they would delay its completion.

As part of the Growth Deal, all Local Plans must be submitted and finalised before April 1, 2019.

As part of the plan, 1,700 homes could be built on land off Grenoble Road, a site which Oxford City Council has wanted to use for housing for nearly 25 years.

Other sites include Bayswater Brook, to the east of Oxford, where 1,100 homes could go, and Northfield, close to BMW’s Mini factory. About 1,800 homes are expected there.

Up to 28,500 new homes could be built in the district before 2034. Critics say that will far outstrip demand.

But SODC’s cabinet member for planning, Felix Bloomfield, said: “This is a plan that will help South Oxfordshire continue to thrive and prosper – it’s not just about housing although it will bring many much-needed affordable homes, it is also about high-quality, well-paid jobs; it’s about shops, leisure and local green spaces; it’s about all the facilities needed to support thriving communities.

“It will help us deliver the infrastructure our district and Oxfordshire badly need – it’s a plan that will enable residents to continue enjoying living and working in South Oxfordshire.”

Mr Bloomfield was the council’s cabinet member for planning back in March, when the Local Plan was rejected. He abstained on that.

David Rogers, a retired Oxford University zoology professor, urged SODC to pull proposals to build on the Green Belt.

He said: “The public of Oxfordshire deserves better than this. It is time for councils to preserve what we have, rather than destroy what previous generations created with care and forethought.”

Other critics include the Protect Old Marston and Elsfield group, which said consultation on the Bayswater Brook site has been unsatisfactory.

The group’s Jane Wilson said: “SODC is in a rush.

“It has examined many other reasonable options, some cursorily, but they certainly haven’t been rejected.”

She added: “I appreciate that SODC is being leant on by Oxford City [Council], which sees itself as an employment hub, and by the current Government, but to threaten to abandon even precious and good Green Belt sites is something that future generations will regret deeply.”

The only site included in the SODC Local Plan outside the Green Belt is the contentious Chalgrove Airfield site. Its owner, Government agency Homes England, wants to build 3,000 homes there. But Chalgrove residents are fiercely opposed and the airfield’s tenant, ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker, said earlier this month it would fight being moved off the site with maximum energy’.

The airfield’s inclusion had been the main reason the Local Plan was rejected in March.

Oxfordshire County Council had opposed development at the airfield because it said infrastructure funding offered by Homes England would have been insufficient.

But Bev Hindle, its strategic director for communities, said it wanted the Local Plan passed.

Planning consultants Framptons, which previously put forward a plan to build 6,500 homes in a new settlement off Junction 7 of the M40 called 'Harrington', urged SODC look at its project rather than others on the Green Belt.

It told the council: “Previous consultation versions of the [Local Plan] have sought to limit Green Belt releases. The current version of the plan is founded on a new strategy that effectively seeks to maximise Green Belt releases on the periphery of Oxford.

“This is a completely new strategy resulting in a new plan that has not been previously consulted upon.”

Now the Local Plan has been approved by the cabinet it will go out to public consultation on January 7.

It will then have to be approved by a government planning inspector before it can be officially adopted.