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City council bids to borrow £121m to build new homes
COUNCIL housing officials could borrow up to £121m to build 3,000 homes both in and outside Oxford if a bid for extra power from Government is approved.
Oxford City Council wants the Government to allow it to increase the amount it can borrow from £37m to as much as £121m for new homes.
And the move could see it build around 2,000 himes on sites outside the city boundaries.
The authority has announced it would use the proceeds from a complex potential deal worth hundreds of millions of pounds for Oxfordshire to increase a cap on its borrowing.
The proposal – the so-called City Deal – aims to give councils and other bodies more power, which can then in turn be used to unlock private sector investment by improving transport links, creating jobs and building homes.
Council leader Bob Price said at least 1,000 of the 3,000 homes planned would be inside the city at sites that have already been earmarked for development.
Those already in the public domain include 300 new homes at Oxpens, at least 200 at the Northern Gateway site at Pear Tree, North Oxford and others near the Churchill Hospital in Headington.
Mr Price said: “Having a higher cap will give us more scope to move on with our ambitious plans for sites like the Northern Gateway and Oxpens.
“There is also the possibility of building homes on the Churchill site, and this would be for sites which become available in the future.
“We obviously wouldn’t borrow anything beyond what we can service with income from the housing stock.”
But Mr Price said that the rest of the cash would be spent on expanding the city beyond its borders, and said land south of Grenoble Road – currently fiercely protected by South Oxfordshire District Council – would remain on his priority list.
He said: “An additional number of homes would have to be outside the city but on a sustainable basis as we’ve always said. The homes would need to be near where the jobs are.”
Concerns were raised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and director Helen Marshall said she was worried the plans could see the Green Belt spoiled.
She said: “The point of the Green Belt is it’s permanent and it protects the villages from urban sprawl.”
She also questioned the level of detail being given by council officers, and asked why consultation had not been carried out with taxpayers.
Liberal Democrat councillor Jean Fooks, who is the leader of the opposition on the city council, said: “If it’s low-cost borrowing and we have the money to pay for that, we should certainly look at it.”
The City Deal bid has to be submitted to the Government by October 11.
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