A COUNCILLOR has accused Oxford University and planning chiefs of misleading residents about plans to build homes on green belt land.

Cherwell District Council has agreed to build a total of 4,400 homes on land around Begbroke, Yarnton and Kidlington to help meet Oxford City Council’s 'unmet housing need'.

It is currently reviewing its Local Plan, which will help decide the exact sites for them.

However some of the new homes will be specifically for students and staff at Oxford University.

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Councillor Ian Middleton says Cherwell has not been clear enough to residents about this.

He cited an article in trade magazine Construction Enquirer referencing the building of 2,000 homes on green belt land at Begbroke near the university’s science park, with around half set aside for university staff.

He said: “It’s clear from this article, and from emails obtained from an FOI request, that Cherwell District Council has been involved in these plans going back some years.

“They have facilitated the university’s ambitions to turn Yarnton and Begbroke into a new campus with no specific consultation on that with local residents. As they say in one of their own emails, ‘Oxford University is being supported by Cherwell big time.’

“It’s a shame that they don’t support their own residents quite so enthusiastically.”

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The 4,400 homes allowed by Cherwell are part of a shared 14,000 homes which will be built in the four districts surrounding Oxford 'to help the city meet its housing need'.

Cherwell Development Watch Alliance, a group of north Oxfordshire residents, said in May it was concerned about gaps between the villages north of Oxford being filled in.

The group argued that building Cherwell District Council’s homes for the city would ‘fill the Kidlington Gap, destroy the North Oxford Golf Course, and effectively join the city to the villages of Begbroke, Kidlington and Yarnton in one urban sprawl’.

Mr Middleton says the council’s ambition of helping Oxford’s housing crisis is a ‘smokescreen’ .

He said: “All this has nothing to do with Oxford’s unmet housing need as the people of Cherwell were told.

“That has simply been the smokescreen to allow developers and landowners free rein to realise their long-held ambitions to develop protected land in Yarnton, Begbroke and Kidlington.

“The people have been misled, not only by the university, but by the council that is supposed to be looking after their interests. This is a shameful betrayal of local democracy and transparency in the planning consultation process.”

Cherwell District Council says ‘it is clear’ that the partial review of its Local Plan has been prepared to address Oxford’s unmet housing need.

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It added: “That is reflected in the evidence used to prepare the plan, the policies themselves, and has been reiterated to a wide range of stakeholders, including Oxford University, at the public examination hearings.”

Oxford University said it plans to house students and staff outside of Oxford and is waiting for the green light from a planning inspector as to whether proposed sites near Begbroke are appropriate.

It said its Strategic Plan 2018-23 is committed to the development of a housing programme in order to provide more affordable accommodation.

It added: “Scrutiny of the Cherwell Local Plan proposals is a matter for Government officials. Ultimately, decisions will be made by democratically elected representatives in local and central government.

“Land can only be released from the Green Belt through a Local Plan if ‘exceptional circumstances’ are demonstrated.

“We await receipt of the appointed inspector’s findings as to whether the Local Plan is sound or not, having considered the detailed evidence, and taking account of national and local policy.

“Any development of land will only be progressed in full and appropriate consultation with local residents, our neighbours and other stakeholders.”