A CONTROVERSIAL housing plan which South Oxfordshire politicians hoped they could alter will be vetted by the public.

South Oxfordshire’s new Local Plan makes space for as many as 28,000 homes in the district, 24,000 of which could be built by 2034.

It went through an examination by a government-backed inspector over the summer, with residents from across South Oxfordshire telling the inspector their thoughts.

The local council’s ruling Lib Dem and Green coalition had hoped the examination would allow them to remove some of the large number of homes from the plan, which they saw as overdevelopment which could wreck the local environment.

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But the inspector has only suggested minor changes to the huge housebuilding programme, with plans for seven ‘strategic sites’ where new homes would be built on open countryside remaining largely untouched.

Before the plan becomes a lawful blueprint of where homes and offices should be built in South Oxfordshire, it needs the district council to sign off on the changes the inspector has made.

But locals also need to be asked their thoughts on what the inspector has suggested too.

A public consultation, a kind of online survey, is open until November 2 for people from South Oxfordshire to have their say on the Plan, which can be found at southoxon.gov.uk/newlocalplan

The council’s ruling Lib Dem-Green coalition had wanted to scrap it, which was devised by a previous Conservative majority.

But was told to approve it before the end of 2020 by the Government’s secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, Robert Jenrick.

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Robin Bennett, the leader of SODC's Green Party group, said it was 'very disappointing' that changes which councillors had suggested during the examination process had largely been left out.

He added: "It is ultimately still the Conservative plan, though some wording changes are in there on a minor level including improved environmental policies, but the big numbers and the big sites are all still there."

Meanwhile, the council's Conservative opposition leader Jane Murphy said she was 'not surprised' the Plan passed without any major changes.

Ms Murphy said: "We always believed it was a good, sound, deliverable development strategy. The planning experts agreed and so, now, has the inspector. The Lib Dems and Greens were either deluding themselves or lying when they claimed differently."

She added: "Of course none of us want to see unnecessary building in our beautiful district. But we need more homes here for our residents - and most people accept that: our housing lists are growing and our families are struggling to afford to live here. This Local Plan offers  the homes we need in sensible locations near jobs, services and sustainable transport links."

It is unsure what will happen in the run up to the December deadline to approve the Local Plan: Mr Jenrick could order the council to adopt it, or councillors might be given a vote on it as they usually would, with many unlikely to feel comfortable with voting on something they still disagree with.