ALLOWING an important decision over the future of thousands of homes to be made behind closed doors has been questioned.

Cherwell District Council's chief executive Yvonne Rees has passed control over who can live in new affordable homes, set to be built in villages in the Oxford green belt, to Oxford City Council.

Green district councillor Ian Middleton said taking the decision without the council's executive having met to discuss it was a 'kick in the teeth' to residents of Kidlington, Yarton and Begbrooke, where the homes are due to be built.

Cherwell District Council and the other four district councils surrounding Oxford have all agreed to help the city meet its 'unmet housing need'.

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To do this, they have each agreed to build a portion of 15,000 homes in their areas to house the city's growing population which cannot fit within Oxford's borders.

Cherwell has agreed to build a total of 4,400 homes in land around three villages north of the city, and is currently reviewing its Local Plan, which will help decide the exact sites for these homes.

The decision taken by the chief executive on April 3 will mean that when they are built anyone who wants to live in the rented, affordable homes north of the city will have to prove to the city council they have a connection with Oxford through 'residence, employment or family'.

The city council will then work with a housing association who runs the homes to house someone in the Cherwell houses set aside for Oxford's need.

Mr Middleton, Green party district councillor for Kidlington East, said handing responsibility for the homes over to the city raised many questions. He said: “Whilst the homes are intended to deal with the overspill of Oxford City, I didn’t expect Cherwell to simply hand control of them over to an entirely different council, one that Cherwell residents have no democratic influence over”

“This raises all sorts of questions, such as who will these residents be paying their council tax to? How can they be paying tax and voting in one district, whilst having their homes controlled and administered by another? This is the city expanding its influence and its borders by proxy. Cherwell District council has once again abdicated it’s democratic responsibility to its own residents."

Oxford Mail:

Ian Middleton. Picture: Jon Lewis.

The councillor also said he was concerned such a large decision had been made without debate or scrutiny.

Mr Middleton said: "This decision should have been subject to open debate in a full council meeting, not quietly passed in a meeting behind closed doors. I’m greatly concerned that this sets a precedent where we could see the lockdown used as an excuse to pass other controversial decisions in this undemocratic way."

On its website Cherwell District Council's recorded version of the decision said a meeting of the council's executive was due to take place on April 6, but was cancelled due to the coronavirus.

The council's executive, councillors in leadership positions, have all confirmed they endorse the decision.

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A Cherwell District Council spokesman said it has agreed a way to chose who could live in the new rented affordable homes 'on sites proposed for development in the emerging Partial Review of the Local Plan'.

They added that the review and allocating the houses were part of the council's statutory duties to work with the city.

The spokesman said: "It is logical that the two councils would work together across their boundaries to support people who are insecurely housed in the city. "The decision on the methodology for allocating the rented affordable homes enables us to start work on the detail of how these homes would be allocated under delegation to Oxford City Council whilst also ensuring that Cherwell residents who have a connection to Oxford city (for example through employment) could also apply for these homes."