Accusations of “secrecy and undemocratic” behaviour are today being levelled at an Oxfordshire council leader bidding to create an eco-settlement.
Five parish councils launched an unprecedented attack on Cherwell District Council leader Barry Wood over the council’s surprise move to create up to 5,000 green homes on the north western edge of
The move has been presented by Cherwell as a bold attempt to head off the threat of the 15,000-home Weston Otmoor eco-town development, near the M40-A34 junction.
But the Cherwell leader is now accused of deliberately keeping local people in the dark, while he discussed plans to build thousands of new homes with the Government’s Housing Minister behind their
A letter has been sent to Cherwell from the parish councils of Ardley with Fewcott, Bucknell, Caversfield, Chesterton and Middleton Stoney.
It warns that local parish councils have lost confidence in the Tory council leader over the way he went about trying to secure backing to build on land at Howes Lane and Lords Lane.
The letter says: “We can only conclude that Barry Wood maintained this level of secrecy, in contravention of the democratic process, because he anticipated a storm of protest from the surrounding
villages, land owners and district councillors involved. He now has a hurricane of hostility, with a majority of these parish councils no longer having any confidence in his judgment as leader of
Cherwell District Council.”
The parishes allege that Mr Wood signed a letter to the then Housing Minister, Caroline Flint, offering a site as an alternative to Weston Otmoor without consulting district, parish or county
councillors or the land owners.
And they say five weeks after the announcement that the Cherwell plan had been added to the Government eco-town shortlist, parish councils had still not received any information from the council.
The rift is the latest turn in an increasingly bitter battle over whether an eco-development in some form offers the best solution to Oxfordshire’s housing shortage.
But Mr Wood said: “I have no regrets about floating the eco-suburb idea with Government ministers. It is my job to lead and make proposals and make them quickly when the opportunity demands it.
“We have started work to develop what is still just a concept and will be consulting with everyone just as we do normally as soon as we have more to discuss.”
Despite any real detail and lack of a draft masterplan, the Bicester eco-extension plan was given a grade B ranking by the Government, with the scheme judged to have potential “subject to more
specific and design objectives”.
The Weston Otmoor scheme was given a C rating.
But Parkridge, the developer behind Weston Otmoor, rejected suggestions that its scheme was dead in the water.
Director Roger Sporle said the company remained determined to win a place on the final eco-town shortlist, due to be announced early next year.
He dismissed Cherwell District Council’s alternative scheme as being little more than “a few lines drawn on a map”.
Parkridge this week claimed its own consultation into Weston Otmoor showed that more than half the 3,700 respondents accepted the need for more housing in the district.
But Cherwell insisted the consultation had backfired, with more than 80 per cent shown to oppose the Weston Otmoor plan.