UP TO 1,700 new homes could finally be set for a controversial site near Blackbird Leys that the city council has wanted to see developed for more than 20 years.

Land off Grenoble Road, near the Kassam Stadium, has been earmarked by the council for decades for potential homes, but it is in South Oxfordshire and on the Green Belt.

South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC), after months of uncertainty, has now said it could select the site for homes in a vital plan, infuriating campaigners.

Other new sites which SODC has said it is considering for housebuilding are Bayswater Brook, to the north east of Oxford, for about 1,110 homes, and Northfield, to the south east of the city.

SODC said 1,800 homes could be built there, with both sites are in the Green Belt.

Others are worried contentious locations, like Chalgrove Airfield, might still be built on.

Oxford City Council's deputy leader Linda Smith welcomed the decision over Grenoble Road, which could pave the way for the South Oxford Science Village (SOSV).

And Jane Murphy, SODC’s leader, said it was 'vital' the council has a 'sound' Local Plan – which outlines where it wants to build major developments until 2034 – that can be passed by the planning inspector.

Campaigners have been opposed to building on land off Grenoble Road because they claim it would badly affect the division between the city and the countryside, creating ‘urban sprawl’.

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The Oxford Times:

Until now, SODC has been reluctant to support building at Grenoble Road – with former leader John Cotton claiming there would need ‘exceptional’ circumstances and that it is ‘not an attractive site’.

Michael Tyce, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “The purpose of the Green Belt is to protect urban sprawl. Grenoble Road is exactly the type of thing the Green Belt it is designed to protect [from development]. South Oxfordshire had always been a staunch defender of the Green Belt.

“Now all that has changed. With the new management at SODC, something that was the staunchest defender of the Green Belt has now stabbed it in the back and is now promoting urban sprawl.”

But Linda Smith, who is also the city council's executive board member for housing, said: "This is excellent news. Our city needs to grow and the land at Grenoble Road is ripe with potential for a new community to be built with homes, schools and jobs for Oxford people. It's not like it's pristine green belt land bursting with nature and amenity value."

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SODC has said it still plans to build 1,850 homes in Culham, also in the Green Belt. It said originally it wanted to build 3,500 homes there but potential development is now set to be slower than anticipated.

Government planning policy is not in favour of building on the Green Belt.

In March, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The answer to our housing crisis does not lie in tearing up the Green Belt.”

All Oxfordshire councils must work together as part of the £215m Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, particularly for an unprecedented plan for the county which will look at planning until 2050.

They must all submit their Local Plans by April 1, 2019 at the latest. Only West Oxfordshire District Council’s plan has been completed.

Regarding other proposals, SODC’s Chalgrove councillor David Turner vowed to stand against any development at the airfield, which could be used for about 2,025 homes. That is down from an expected 3,000 earlier this year.

Mr Turner said: “99.9 per cent of people are against it. It would completely destroy the community of Chalgrove.”

Ejector seat manufacturer Martin-Baker has said it is strongly opposed to being kicked off the airfield site, but the Government’s Homes England agency wants to use it for housing.

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The council still wants to use other sites at Berinsfield and Wheatley for homes.

In its draft Local Plan, SODC said it was confident it will ‘exceed people’s high expectations in terms of healthy living, sustainable travel and the design of buildings, homes and public spaces.’

SODC’s scrutiny committee will look at the plan next Thursday. It will make recommendations to the council’s cabinet, which will meet on December 18. The council will then be asked to sign the plan off on December 20.