NEW homes must be built on Oxford’s Green Belt if the city’s housing crisis is to be tackled, according to the city council’s former leader.

Bob Price said development on some protected land around Oxford would create better communities, with the alternative being ‘piecemeal’ estates on the edge of existing Oxfordshire villages.

But Mr Price, who stepped down as the council’s leader in January 2018, said: “It would be impossible to achieve vital social and economic [improvements] unless we build new housing developments on the Green Belt.

“The real question is not whether this is necessary but on what scale and in which locations.”

Mr Price added: “It makes sense to build communities on the edge of the city and urban areas so that they can be integrated with the existing urban areas and create communities with a light environmental footprint and limited reliance on a private motor car.”

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One development on the Green Belt could impact on Kidlington, Begbroke and Yarnton. Cherwell District Council has approved a bid for 4,400 homes.

Another six Green Belt sites have been included in the South Oxfordshire District Council Local Plan, approved by councillors in December. Both councils’ plans must be approved by a planning inspector.

It could mean homes are built off Grenoble Road, south of Oxford, and at Bayswater Brook, to the east of the city.

Mr Price was debating the use of the Green Belt at an Oxford Civic Society meeting to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

He opposed the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Michael Tyce, who said councils plan to ‘dismember’ the Green Belt.

Mr Tyce said: “There can be no question that people in need of housing must be housed, or that if no reasonable alternative is available that Green Belt land should be considered.

“But actual housing need can be met without touching Green Belt land.

“Councils are planning to dismember the Green Belt in pursuit of a maximum growth strategy, exactly what the Green Belt was designed to prevent, and directly contrary to the public interest.”

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Oxfordshire authorities plan to build about 100,000 new homes in the county before the mid-2030s. The Government wants to build one million new homes between Oxford and Cambridge before 2050.

The society will host another two events over coming months to celebrate its formation in 1969 over worries about overdevelopment.

The third debate will be held over the potential Oxford-Cambridge expressway with county council leader Ian Hudspeth and Oxford University academic Danny Dorling taking opposing sides.

That will be at Oxford Town Hall on June 17 from 7.30pm.