A LONG-delayed housing plan will move forward, despite many of the councillors who voted for it thinking it will result in environmental destruction and too many homes.

South Oxfordshire District Council accepted its Local Plan at a meeting on Thursday night, after five months of delay.

Councillors discussed a motion which was agreed by the cabinet earlier that morning after receiving a letter from the Government's housing minister Robert Jenrick, which told them they legally had to take the plan forward.

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Though councillors voted by a majority to take the plan forward there was reluctance among many of them to do so.

Speaking after the meeting, the council’s Lib Dem leader Sue Cooper said: “It’s now time to focus on doing everything we can to tackle the climate emergency, including developing new planning policies that seek to ensure new buildings and developments in the district are genuinely sustainable, meet high-quality environmental standards, and meet local needs.”

SODC had planned to scrap its local plan in October last year and rewrite it because the Lib Dem-Green coalition, elected in May 2019, was concerned it would result in too much building on greenbelt land.

But Mr Jenrick put a suspension in place to stop them speaking about it or taking any action on the Local Plan.

There were suggestions in February he might hand control of the plan to Oxfordshire County Council, leading to accusations of ignoring the local democratic decision to vote in the Lib Dems and Greens.

On Tuesday, he gave the council a new 'direction' they had to obey in his letter, citing planning law as the basis for his orders.

During the meeting, many councillors were resigned to accepting a Local Plan they hated, after fighting tooth and nail to scrap it and start again.

Didcot councillor Celia Wilson said: “I want to say to you I feel that the choice I have tonight is between a bad option and a worse one."

“I am voting for the least-worse option in my opinion.”

Green councillor Sue Roberts said future generations would be horrified by the result of approving the plan, as building on the greenbelt would lead to environmental destruction.

Ms Roberts said: “I will have to support the motion because that is all that is on the table, but let’s hope we can protect our natural world.”

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XR protesters.

Public speakers at the meeting appealed to the council to fight against the government’s order to finish the plan.

Garsington resident Marie Holmes asked the council to take Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, to a judicial review over plan.

She added: "I am very worried about democracy in this country," as she felt Mr Jenrick had ignored locals' vote for the Lib Dems and Greens and their agenda to change the local plan.

But Labour councillor Mocky Khan described the five month delay as a 'total mess'.

He added: "I take no pleasure in saying this, but I told you so. I said we needed to keep our local plan. I said many times it is not perfect but I said we should be putting our concerns to the inspector."

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Out of all the councillors, only two voted against the plan going forward, Simon Hewerdine and Elizabeth Gillespie, both of whom made passionate speeches against accepting it and the perceived heavy handedness of the government’s decision to step in and make the council accept it.

The meeting ended with a 'die-in' by Extinction Rebellion activists protesting the plan being passed.

Extinction Rebellion activist Sarah Webb had earlier told the council they should be 'courageous' and stand up to the government.

The council will now continue with its Local Plan, and submit it to government inspectors to make sure it is legally sound.

They also need to create a timetable to make sure it is all complete by December this year is in place.

The council also plan to write to Mr Jenrick to make sure £215 million of funding for new roads around Didcot is now paid to Oxfordshire County Council.