A SERIES of public meetings about where new homes will be built in the county has been described as a ‘farce’.

The hearings into the South Oxfordshire Local Plan saw Government-appointed planning inspector Jonathan Bore listen to residents, councillors and campaign groups give their views on the plan for four weeks.

The Local Plan sets out where 28,500 new homes, offices, and new roads can be built in the area covered by South Oxfordshire District Council between now and 2034.

The plan hearing was the first of its kind to be carried out entirely through video conferencing technology.

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The council’s Lib Dem and Green leaders had hoped to make changes to the plan during the examination, but now believe this will not be possible.

Leader Sue Cooper described the process as ‘a complete farce’.

Oxford Mail:

Sue Cooper.

Meanwhile, her fellow senior councillor Anne-Marie Simpson, cabinet member for planning, thanked ‘the unprecedented number of local residents who made their submissions in person and those who watched the proceedings online.’

The inspector will now make changes to the Local Plan so it is ‘legally sound’, before a report detailing the changes is published for residents to give their opinions on.

Ms Simpson added: “We look forward to reading the report once it is finalised and I would encourage people to once again come forward during the consultation period which will follow.”

What happens next?

Once the report into the plan is agreed, South Oxfordshire District Council has until December to adopt the plan.

It was ordered to do this by the Government’s Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, in February.

This followed months of political stand-off between the Government and the council leaders, who wanted to change the plan because of residents' concerns about overdevelopment of the countryside and climate change.

Most of the new homes planned for the district would be built at seven large ‘strategic sites’ around the district.

Six of these sites would be in Green Belt land, which is usually protected from large development to prevent urban sprawl.

READ AGAIN about what is in the Local Plan here

The strategic sites include:

  • Chalgrove Airfield
  • Oxford Brookes' Wheatley Campus
  • Culham Science Centre
  • Grenoble Road
  • Northfield
  • A new Berinsfield garden village
  • Fields north of Oxford at Bayswater Brook.

Only Chalgrove is outside of the Oxford Green Belt.

After being unable to scrap the plan and start again, councillors had hoped to make changes to the Local Plan during the examination..

Green Party deputy leader on South Oxfordshire District Council Robin Bennett added: “This feels like a real kick in the teeth for local residents who spent a great deal of time and effort to make incredibly powerful arguments during the examination that there simply isn’t the justification for this loss of Green Belt.”

Oxford Mail:

Grenoble Road outside Oxford, where thousands of new homes could be built as part of the Local Plan. Picture: Ed Nix

Government minister Mr Jenrick is currently planning large changes to the planning system in England.

The South Oxfordshire Local Plan has been decided under the current planning system.

There were more than 14,000 views of the public hearings live feed on YouTube over the four weeks they took place, with 4,600 unique viewers.