OXFORD City Council has admitted it cannot rely on social housing cash to pay for a planned 800 home development at Barton West.

Councillors yesterday agreed to look for an investor for the scheme on council-owned land on the edge of the city.

It came after Melbourne Barrett, executive director of city regeneration, told the council it was “unrealistic” to rely on social housing grants to pay for the development.

The city council’s executive board met yesterday to discuss plans for the Barton West development.

It was told costs of providing road access to the development from the A40, extensive community facilities and a new primary school will all add millions to the scheme.

But with the prospect of grants for social housing fading, the council executive backed the idea of forming a joint venture with a private investor as the best way to create between 800 and 900 homes.

The importance of the Barton West scheme also increased after the stalling of the scheme for 4,000 homes south of Grenoble Road.

Mr Barrett said: “The times of being able to rely on social housing grants have gone and the market knows that. It would be unrealistic to rely on those grants, so we have to look at other viable options.”

But council leader Bob Price insisted the project should go ahead as the Town Hall pledged to advertise for an investor from Saturday, November 20.

He said: “There are currently 6,000 families on the waiting list for social housing and that’s something we have to keep in mind.

“But the development in Barton is important because so many other ones have fallen through.”

Meanwhile, Ruskin College has said it was ready to offer green land on the other side of the A40 for further housing and to link the new housing development to Northway with a bridge. That would make the scheme more viable.

However, the idea of developing Ruskin Fields in the college’s Old Headington campus, would be bitterly fought by conservationists and the Friends of Old Headington.

Sarah King, chairman of the Friends of Old Headington, said: “The site is adjacent to our Conservation Area, but not in it. It would be a difficult site to develop. It has an electricity substation in the middle, it has recreation ground and allotments at the east end.

“Obviously it can connect to Barton but you would have to create a decent access for people going into Oxford West from across the ring road.

“Things have gradually improved with the Hamburger roundabout, but it cannot possibly cope with the traffic produced by nearly 1,000 new homes.”

The city council said it is prepared to bring down the ratio of affordable homes from 50 to 40 per cent.

The only alternative way to attract investors would be to create a retail centre anchored by a supermarket, drastically reducing housing, councillors were warned.

Executive member John Tanner said: “It will continue the Oxford tradition of living next to green space and will be an extension of Oxford, not just a case off fitting in as many houses as we can.”