A DEVELOPER has been slammed for trying to cut the number of affordable homes at one of its Oxfordshire sites.

Bellway has applied to reduce the proportion of affordable housing at its 76-home Shepherds Walk development in North Leigh, near Witney, from 50 per cent to 40.

This would see eight properties currently earmarked as affordable housing sold privately instead, which many residents say would make a 'mockery' of the planning rules.

The change is acceptable under West Oxfordshire's Local Plan, but county councillor for Hanborough and Minster Lovell, Liam Walker, said it had left a bad taste.

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He said: "It's a bit of a kick in the teeth to the planning system and people trying to get on the housing ladder.

"It wouldn't surprise me if it was a bit of a sweetener to get the application through."

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He added: "There have been issues with the development before, but this is the final straw."

Bellway is building 114 homes across two sites in the village, but was criticised last winter when residents complained lorries leaving the developments were spreading dust all over the roads.

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The 76-home site was approved in March 2018, with the latest amended application submitted last month.

Last September, the district's local plan was approved, which sets out how to build almost 16,000 houses in West Oxfordshire up to 2031.

In the latest application, Bellway referenced local plan policy H3, which says developments in the district's medium-value zone – which includes North Leigh – must be at least 40 per cent affordable.

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When the site was first approved, the affordable homes threshold was 50 per cent.

The plans have drawn the ire of residents, with almost 40 objections submitted online in just one week up to Thursday.

North Leigh resident Simon Jones said: "The North Leigh community needs housing for all demographic needs, not just more top end perspective residents.

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"This alteration to plans, agreed after community consultation and review nearly two years ago, must be rejected outright."

Several people agreed, with Alison Merryweather-Clarke adding: "Now that it has been built, they should at least honour the agreement so that local first time buyers stand a chance of being able to buy a home in the village in which they were brought up, near their families and support networks."

Linda Hilsdon, also from North Leigh, continued: "We need more affordable housing to enable families to stay in the area.

"It is not only young people who cannot afford to get on the property ladder, many people need affordable housing whether it be shared ownership or rental."

Many homes on Shepherds Walk have already been built and are on the market, with North Leigh Parish Council discussing the application last Thursday.

A Bellway spokesperson said: “The application is now with the council for consideration, and once a decision has been made, we look forward to construction work continuing onsite to meet the needs of local buyers in North Leigh.”