THE chairman of Oxfordshire’s planning partnership has denied that there is a “hidden agenda” about where houses will be built in the county.
Ian Hudspeth is leader of Oxfordshire County Council and chairman of the Oxfordshire Spatial Planning and Infrastructure Partnership (SPIP) which is made up of every council in the county.
He has scotched concerns that the areas around Oxford will be forced to build more houses than they feel they can take.
The Campaign To Protect Rural England (CPRE) has said plans were already being drawn up that would lead to the “swamping” of Oxford’s near neighbours and the destruction of the Green Belt.
It comes after an independent assessment put Oxfordshire’s housing need at 100,000 by 2031.
The CPRE has also warned about an agreement the councils have reached that says if one council area fails to meet its target, the others “must seek to accommodate this unmet need”.
Mr Hudspeth said: “There is a duty to co-operate between planning authorities and that is it. There is no duty to agree. We have been working together through the SPIP since 2009 to agree where housing should go and where infrastructure is required.
“If Oxford doesn’t feel it can deliver enough houses then it is not a question of saying that another council has got to take them. Other councils can look at it and say we cannot have them.
“There is no hidden agenda.”
The CPRE has said a Greater Oxford is “almost inevitable” – with green fields sacrificed for economic growth.
Director of CPRE Oxfordshire, Helen Marshall, said: “We fear that behind the scenes the plans are to seek a Greater Oxford that would swamp many of the city’s nearby towns and villages including Kidlington and Woodstock, Radley and Abingdon and the Baldons and Horspath.
“It would effectively mean the end of a functioning Green Belt.”
But it is the Statement of Co-operation agreed by leaders of the county council and all five district councils that is viewed as the greatest threat to Oxford’s neighbours.
Ms Marshall said: “All five district councils have signed a statement that appears to have committed them in advance to accepting the housing figures proposed in the recent SHMA (Strategic Housing Market Assessment), however ridiculous.”
Bob Price, leader of Oxford City Council, said: “The SHMA has identified a significant need for new housing across the county up to 2031. Councils are moving on to examine possible sites for the number of houses identified.”
Mr Price said that while there was no Greater Oxford plan, the city wants an urban extension to the south east of Oxford at Grenoble Road.
He said: “That remains a priority option, as it is sustainable in transport terms and is on land owned largely by the city.”