OXFORD’s rural fringe is at risk of being destroyed by councils who want to build thousands of homes near the ring road, it is being warned.

Residents who might be affected by controversial plans to build on the Oxford Green Belt have until Monday to give their views, with some opponents claiming the work would ‘destroy’ the fabric of the city.

District councils across Oxfordshire have agreed to build more than 16,000 new homes into the 2030s to deal with what the authorities say is Oxford’s unmet need.

But some residents have said such a need does not exist and that the councils want to build far more homes than are really required.

Massive developments could be bulldozed through the Green Belt in coming years if current proposals get the go-ahead over coming months.

Among them are a 1,100-home development next to Barton Park, which the Oxford University college landowner says would be ‘unparalleled in terms of its sustainability credentials’.

Christ Church college, which is planning the project for land north of Bayswater Brook with Dorchester Residential Management, says it would provide an ‘exciting urban extension’.

But Michael Tyce of the Campaign to Protect Rural England said councils were ‘rascals’ who were using faulty figures to build more homes ‘by subterfuge’.

The number of homes in South Oxfordshire could increase by more than 50 per cent in 15 years, according to its Local Plan. That would rise from 54,000 now to 82,000 by 2034, far outstripping demand, Mr Tyce said.

He said: “If people read the documents from South Oxfordshire District Council and the other councils, what [the documents] say is that they are trying to meet housing need – then people take that at face value. They might say ‘if this is to meet housing need then so be it.’

“But [current] housing stock has taken 2,000 years to get to this level.”

The current availability of housing is part of what makes Oxford one of the country’s most expensive cities to live in, and so the Government has agreed to give £215m in the Oxfordshire Growth Deal to support the building of 100,000 new homes by 2031.

A key driver in implementing that is the Oxfordshire Growth Board, which is led by district, city and county council leaders.

But Mr Tyce said the Growth Board was acting like a 'dictatorship', pushing through development regardless of its cost to the character of Oxford and Oxfordshire.

He added: “It is like the Soviet Union…the Politburo is the Growth Board and they get on with it.”

South Oxfordshire District Council’s consultation on its Local Plan closes on Monday, and residents and councillors spoke at a meeting on Wednesday about their desire to ‘save Barton’s green spaces’.

Campaigners were infuriated in December when it emerged the authority wants to build six major sites in the Oxford Green Belt, with just one outside it.

But Oxford City Council has been encouraged, not least by SODC’s willingness to finally build on land off Grenoble Road – which the city council has wanted used for homes for more than 20 years.

In consultation documents to SODC, opponents to the development have called for projects like Bayswater Brook to be scrapped.

David J Rogers, a retired Oxford University professor of ecology, said: “The public of Oxfordshire deserve better than this. It is time for councils to preserve what we have, rather than destroy what previous generations created with care and forethought.”

But the city council remains in favour of urban extensions like Bayswater Brook and Grenoble Road. It has regularly said it is easier to accommodate its housing need close to Oxford than building developments miles outside the city.

A city spokesman said yesterday: “The city council’s evidence shows that properly planned urban extensions are an efficient and sustainable solution to housing need.

“They provide opportunity to extend existing public transport and cycle networks as part of an integrated transport strategy and reduce the need to travel longer distances.”

Hearings over development in the Kidlington Gap – accepted by Cherwell district councillors last years but opposed by thousands – have taken place over the past fortnight.

If approved by a planning inspector, 4,400 homes would be built close to the village and in Begbroke and Yarnton.

But the Cherwell Development Watch Alliance, which is resolutely against that scheme, commissioned consultants who said the city council’s proposal to build 1,400 homes a year to met current needs was ‘flawed’ and that the prediction is ‘without precedent across the country’.

That figure is way in excess of the homes the city council has built in recent years. It completed just over 250 in 2017/ 18 and slightly more this year.

The Government has said it wants one million new homes to be built between Oxford and Cambridge before 2050.

City councillor Mick Haines and county councillors Glynis Phillips and Tim Bearder attended a meeting over building at Bayswater Brook on Wednesday.

Mr Haines said: “We are all fighting against it. Marston is on marsh land and I just want to make sure we are secure despite the 1,100 homes they want to put up.”

To comment on the South Oxfordshire District Council Local Plan, visit www.southoxon.gov.uk