SOUTH Oxfordshire councillors have been urged to press ahead with plans for thousands of new homes as pressure mounts from across the county.

The county council and other authorities increasingly fear that hundreds of millions of pounds of government funding to boost infrastructure could be lost if a plan is not adopted.

South Oxfordshire councillors approved the Local Plan for housing last December, but following changes to the authority at local elections in May, the Liberal Democrat and Green councillors who now run the council said they wanted to consider if it could be changed.

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After proposed meeting for September was cancelled, a new meeting next Thursday is set to decide whether it should be kept, changed or ditched.

Angus Horner, the director of Harwell Campus, said he personally shared ‘grave concerns’ about the plan’s progress and stressed that the housing plan could benefit the whole area.

He said: "The plan will give us control over housing growth and secure government funding for hard infrastructure in the county.

"This investment will ease pressure on local infrastructure and help us to do better than ‘sticking plaster’ projects to plug gaps."

He added: "We have an opportunity right now to substantially ‘lift up’ our area, to further improve the quality of life that our families, children and friends enjoy, and importantly to give additional support to those in our community who need it most."

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Despite being pushed by all other authorities to carry on with the deal, senior councillors from other Oxfordshire authorities have said privately they still have no idea whether South Oxfordshire will.

All other councils worry about the potential loss of government funding, including £218m from its Housing Infrastructure Fund and £250m in the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.

Vale of White Horse District Council has already said SODC’s failure to settle on a Local Plan would open its own land up to speculative development.

The new Lib Dem and Green leader have said they fear that 28,500 homes included in the Local Plan would be far more than the district needs. In part, some of those homes would be used to meet Oxford’s ‘unmet need’.

Liberal Democrats and Greens who now run SODC have said they doubt whether that demand exists because the housing figures the totals are based on were calculated in 2014.

Contentious sites including Grenoble Road, Chalgrove Airfield and Culham remain in the SODC’s Local Plan.

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Other groups also remain sceptical whether the plan needs to be adopted and backs scrapping it and starting again.

Michael Tyce of the Campaign to Protect Rural England said if SODC presses on, it would be allowing 'twice as many homes as there is demand for.'

Mr Tyce’s group has said the authority should rely on its Core Strategy, which runs until 2027.

In correspondence to councillors, the group said: “This has much lower housing numbers. No contentious Green Belt releases. No Chalgrove. Your officers confirm it is sound.

“Obviously it will have to be replaced when it expires in 2027 which means starting work by 2020, but it is fine now. No new Plan at all is needed now. In 2020 the council can start work on a replacement Plan in the form it wishes.”

Sue Cooper, SODC's leader, said: "This is a very important decision, so it was necessary to spend some time ensuring we had greater clarity on how each of the options ahead will affect the district and the wider county, especially the impact they will have on our residents and the climate emergency. Councillors will now consider these."