MASSIVE growth projects are enough to justify building thousands of new homes on Oxford’s Green Belt, the city council has claimed.

It has said it cannot meet demand for new homes within its boundary. Other Oxfordshire district councils have previously sought to help by planning to build about 10,000 more homes than they need within theirs into the mid-2030s.

The city council said the £215m Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal and other government-backed development between Oxford and Cambridge mean more homes will be needed than previously expected.

In a response to planning inspectors who queried why new homes around Oxfordshire would be required to meet the city’s alleged unmet need, the council said it was ‘logical’ to build more.

The city council said: “The presence of a growth deal can logically only result in an increase in housing need above demographic trends and market signals derived from use of the standard methodology.”

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Opponents argue no need has been firmly established in Oxford for district councils to take on the extra new homes.

But planning inspectors looking at major building programmes in West Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse and Cherwell districts have all said they see no problem with the way Oxford’s unmet need has been calculated.

The government has previously said it wants to build one million new homes between Oxford and Cambridge before 2050, along with the controversial £4.5bn Oxford-Cambridge expressway.

The city council said they are ‘likely to drive an increase in the homes needed’.

South Oxfordshire district councillors will tonight be asked to request whether it would be possible to keep £218m of government funding and change its controversial Local Plan.

The council’s former Conservative administration backed building on Green Belt land, including at Grenoble Road, south of Oxford.

But the Conservatives lost control of the authority in May. Since then, a Liberal Democrat-Green coalition has urged caution on approving thousands of new homes which they have said are unnecessary.

South Oxfordshire council will seek to ‘protect’ £218m from the Housing Infrastructure Fund – which could ‘unlock’ 13,400 new homes – while also agreeing to reverse work done by the previous council on its Local Plan.

An insider candidly claimed the authority is seeking to ‘kick the can down the road’ so Lib Dems and Greens can decide on more palatable housing sites over coming months, while keeping government money.

But it is unclear what any delay to South Oxfordshire’s Local Plan would mean for the Growth Deal. Some officers have said they worry the government could ditch it entirely if conditions are not met.

Some groups have said they would prefer the Growth Deal scrapped and fewer houses built.

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Michael Tyce, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), has written to all 36 South Oxfordshire councillors to urge the scrapping of their Local Plan.

He said any planned move would involve ‘tinkering’ – but Mr Tyce said more radical action is needed so the authority can ‘write a better one’.

Mr Tyce added: “Progressing the previous administration’s [Local Plan], even in an amended form, will still have to be within the parameters of the background papers and agreements made to support it. This would severely limit scope for improvement.”

Elsewhere, campaigners in Cherwell were dealt a blow earlier this week when a planning inspector said he saw no major problems with building 4,400 new homes on the Green Belt north of Oxford.

A group of golfers who want to retain North Oxford Golf Club for sport were left furious after the inspector said the site is ideal for 1,200 new homes despite it being a ‘much-valued facility’.

David Young, a member of GreenWay, said he was shocked homes could be built there.

He said: “We are horrified that despite continual reassurances from government ministers that the Green Belt is safe, these assurances seem worthless.”

Alex Hollingsworth, the city council’s cabinet member for planning and sustainable transport, was happy with the inspector’s findings.

He said: “We welcome the note from Cherwell’s planning inspector, which confirms the joint approach taken by Oxfordshire’s local authorities to identify and respond to housing needs that can’t be met within the boundaries of the city of Oxford.

“I’m pleased the inspector shares our view that should be achieved in a way that minimises travel distances, and best provides transport choices other than the private car.”