A GOVERNMENT planning inspector has accused Oxford City Council of being “inflexible” over the creation of a boulevard along the A40.

Shelagh Bussey yesterday heard from residents and community groups as part of the inquiry into the city council’s plans to build up to 1,200 homes on land to the west of Barton.

The plans include having houses facing towards the A40 with pedestrian crossings on the ring road and a bus-only crossing between Barton West and Northway.

Concerns were raised over the proposed transformation of the A40 between Northway and the Green Road roundabout, which would also involve cutting the speed limit to 40mph.

Dr Bussey said: “I find the policy [of having houses facing towards the A40] very inflexible. This is the one aspect which might be impeded if the speed limit is not lowered.

“I am concerned that if things do not pan out as the [city] council plans there will be difficulties in approving planning applications.”

Oxfordshire County Council has objected to plans to reduce the speed limit along the road on the basis that it is a “strategic” route important to the local economy.

Any changes to the speed limit are decided by the county council, which is the highways authority, after a public consultation.

But in making a planning decision Dr Bussey could establish a framework the two authorities could work in without actually making a decision on the speed limit.

City council lawyer Anthony Crean argued the Barton Area Action Plan could still be approved since although the lower speed limit was not yet confirmed, it could theoretically be delivered.

But some residents raised concerns about the plans for the ring road, including the bus lane into Northway, which they claimed would increase noise and traffic .

Georgina Gibbs, of Northway Residents’ Action Group, said: “It is not fair. The opening will ruin the standard of life of the residents of Foxwell Drive.”

County council officer Martin Tugwell said there could be up to six more accidents a year at the site as a result of the pedestrian crossing.

Michael Crofton-Briggs, the city council’s head of city development, defended the decision to create a boulevard. He said: “In order to support the 40mph limit it is important that the drivers get visual clues that they are travelling through an urban area.

“We are arguing that a complete change of character is necessary.

“What we are talking about is trying to create a community which is best for the 21st century.”

The hearing continues today from 10am in Town Hall. It is open to members of the public but only those invited to speak by the inspector may do so.

To see more details about the Barton West masterplan, visit bartonoxford.org.uk