FIVE HUNDRED homes will be built on a university campus in a village east of Oxford after the government intervened in the controversial plan.

Oxford Brookes University was refused outline planning permission to demolish its Wheatley campus and replace it with a 500-home housing estate in 2018.

This was because the council said the site was on Green Belt land, classified as countryside which should not be built on to prevent Oxford’s urban sprawl.

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But the university appealed the decision and it was overturned by the government on April 23.

Residents are now worried that the new homes could stretch local schools and GP surgeries to ‘maximum capacity’.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government report weighed up the impact of building on the Green Belt as well as the effect the new homes would have on the nearby Grade-II Holton Park House.

The government said that the council’s planning policy was out of date, and added the land was marked for development anyway in SODC’s new Local Plan, which is currently in draft.

It also said that pulling down the tower block at the campus would benefit the area overall.

But locals are unhappy with the decision.

Oxford Mail:

The tower block at Brookes' Wheatley Campus. Picture: Ed Nix.

Conservative parish councillor Toby Newman said residents were ‘deeply disappointed’ and had only wanted 300 homes on the site, as recommended in their neighbourhood plan.

He also criticised the district council for not having an up to date Local Plan, as it had contributed to the government decision.

Mr Newman said: “This could have a devastating effect on all villages and towns in the entire district.”

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SODC’s Green and Lib Dem leadership had attempted to make changes to their local plan after being voted in last May, but were stopped by the government, leading to months of delay.

Lib Dem county councillor for Wheatley Tim Bearder said the new homes would place local schools and medical services ‘at maximum capacity.’

Oxford Mail:

Tim Bearder.

He added: “It beggars belief that a Conservative cabinet minister would be using incredibly powerful legislation to subvert local democracy over a couple of hundred houses. Nationally this is an insignificant number but for residents of Wheatley and the surrounding villages in my Division this is a catastrophe.”

Out of the 500 homes to be built at the site, 173 would be sold at an affordable rate: classed as 80 per cent of market value.

Oxford Brookes is moving out of its Wheatley Campus, and wanted to transfer all departments away from the site by 2022.

A spokesman for the university said: “The University has been informed of the Secretary of State’s decision and will consider the ruling carefully before agreeing next steps.”

See planning reference P17/S4254/O at the South Oxfordshire District Council website for more information.