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UNCERTAINTY surrounds major housing schemes across the county, including the plan for a massive city extension to the south of Oxford, as the new Government confirmed it is tearing up the South East Plan.

More than 55,000 homes had been set to be built in Oxfordshire under the original regional plan, with a controversial scheme to build 4,000 homes near Oxford United’s Kassam Stadium later added.

But with district councils in the process of finalising their local plans, which detail where new homes should go, the new coalition Government announced this week that the existing planning system is to be scrapped.

In the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday, the Government said it is to get rid of regionally imposed housing targets and is shifting power back to local councils and communities.

The South East Plan, the blueprint for regional development until 2026, included proposals to build thousands of new homes on green land in the South-East, sparking protests and court battles.

Local campaigners, like Sietske Boeles, have welcomed news that the plan is being consigned to the dustbin.

She said: “In Oxford and other parts of the country there is a huge collective sigh of relief that these unpopular targets are abandoned. It has important implications for the city, where the plan set targets to build 8,000 homes and create 7,000-plus jobs, which are now uncertain.”

She believed that both the proposed new settlement south of Grenoble Road and the ‘Northern Gateway’ scheme, to create a business park on land near the Pear Tree Roundabout, could be “early victims” of the Government’s planning changes.

Oxford City Council has been championing the proposed extension south of Grenoble Road as vital to combating the city’s housing shortages. But the land on which it would be built falls within the boundaries of South Oxfordshire District Council, which has always opposed the development.

SODC’s objection to the Grenoble Road scheme would always have been an impediment to it being built. But its opposition assumes far greater importance following the announcement that decisions on housing will be made at a local rather than regional level.

Essentially, the city must now reach agreement with South Oxfordshire if the Grenoble Road development is to go ahead.

The leader of Oxford City Council, Bob Price, said: “We will talk to South Oxfordshire about their view on where we go next and hope they are prepared to enter into discussions. South Oxfordshire might be prepared to change their views.

“This creates a huge ongoing problem in developing the housing we have identified as needed by the city over the next 15 to 20 years.”

The new document setting out SODC’s planning strategy for the next 15 years makes no mention of the Grenoble Road site.

It puts forward plans for 2,330 new homes in Didcot, the bulk to be built north of Ladygrove, 750 homes in Wallingford, 700 homes in Thame and 1,200 homes spread across larger villages.

The chief executive of SODC and the Vale of White Horse District Council, David Buckle, said: “All we got was just one line in the Queen’s Speech.

“It may be December before we see the sort of ideas that the Government has, with the bill coming next year.

“We are in a vacuum at the moment.

“With planning, wherever there is a vacuum, there is always a very real danger of developers taking advantage of that and putting in speculative planning application that authorities find difficult to resist.”

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said that the planning overhaul could leave the city of Oxford in “an impossible situation” when it comes to resolving its housing crisis.

He has put down a Parliamentary question asking the Government to clarify its plans.

Under the South East Plan, around 55,000 homes were to be built in Oxfordshire between 2006 and 2026.