TENSIONS over the restructuring of local government must not slow progress on developments to bring thousands of new homes and jobs to the county, a business leader has warned.

Nigel Tipple, chief executive of Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – which brings together councils, businesses and universities – said the political squabble over a potential super council should be put on hold to focus on the county’s most significant growth period for decades.

He said major developments at Oxpens, the Northern Gateway, Oxford railway station, Osney Mead industrial estate, Botley’s West Way shopping centre and the Harwell and Culham science areas as well as thousands of new homes planned by 2031 meant infrastructure was now the ‘number one priority’ with all councils needing to be on board.

It comes after Oxford City, Cherwell and West Oxfordshire district councils tabled a counter-proposal to the Oxfordshire super council bid currently being considered by the Secretary for State for Local Government, Sajid Javid.

Mr Tipple said: “The UK government will be distracted over negotiations in Europe and in the interim we have a job to do and we have got to keep doing it.

“The leaders have shown great political maturity in working together on the county’s economic growth and we have a strong partnership but any tensions [in the future] must not slow down progress.

“With the number of developments across the city and county we are looking at the biggest growth in the county in the last 20 years and in terms of the national picture it will bring Oxfordshire into the conversation.

“But infrastructure is the number one priority – we are talking about road, rail and other public transport but also telecommunications and broadband. There’s no point if you don’t get the connectivity between the places.”

He added rail access to Heathrow Airport, the East West Rail link to Cambridge and the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, which would improve the A34, were at the top of agenda, with improvements to the A40, A44 and A420 among those next in line.

His comments cast further doubt over the unitary bid put forward by Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils.

The three councils want to replace the six biggest local authorities with a single organisation to save £400,000 a week and – they say – make services better.

But last week a counter-proposal was put forward by Oxford City and Cherwell and West Oxfordshire councils. They said crucial issues of housing, transport and health and social care would be thrown ‘off track’ by the wholesale restructuring of local government.

The leaders of the three councils – Bob Price, Barry Wood and James Mills – have written to the government with their plan and said the economic climate meant restructuring was now unlikely.

The other local authority leaders – Ian Hudspeth of Oxfordshire County Council, John Cotton of South Oxfordshire District Council and Matthew Barber of Vale of White Horse District Council said: “We are reviewing their report for the very first time and will discuss our response with the other councils in due course.”