THE fate of huge swathes of countryside north of Oxford hangs in the balance ahead of a public inquiry next week.

Hundreds of campaigners are gearing up for their own day of reckoning on Tuesday, when they will try to convince the Government’s planning inspector to reject a local plan that will see 4,400 homes built in the Cherwell district by 2031.

For members at North Oxford Golf Club it represents one of the last chances to save their 112-year-old golf course from the diggers.

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Residents from Kidlington, Yarnton, Begbroke and Woodstock will also line up to make their arguments in a fight that will determine the future of the area for decades to come.

Linda Ward, of Kidlington Development Watch who fear the homes will ‘swallow up’ land between the village and Oxford, said: “I think this is going to be fundamental for the whole area.

“We are going up against some powerful vested interests but we believe we have massive public support - we’ve raised £3,500 for legal costs in January alone.

“Once all this land is gone, it’s gone and it’s not going to come back so there is a lot to fight for.

“We have been working up to this for five years and it is crucial for all of us.”

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Central to the debate across the four-day inquiry will be whether Cherwell District Council has over-estimated the number of homes to build in order to satisfy Oxford’s ‘unmet need’.

Both that council and Oxford City believe initial calculations are still robust but campaigners fear they have been exaggerated and are based on old figures about predicted population growth.

Planning inspector Paul Griffiths accepted late last year that the need was sound ‘in principle’ but will use the hearings to listen to more of the arguments and make a final decision - upon which the entire rest of the plan depends.

If this is accepted, he will then go on to each of the proposed development sites in turn and hear statements for and against before deciding whether they should be included.

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One of the most controversial schemes will see the golf club swallowed up as part of a development of 1,180 homes between Cutteslowe and the A34.

The council says the site, on green belt land, is ideally located near to transport and other facilities and is backed by current landowners Oxford University, Exeter College and Merton College.

But golf club member David Wynne-Jones, who is campaigning to save, said he felt land currently earmarked for employment in Oxford should be turned over for housing instead.

He also pointed to figures reported by this paper recently showing there were 428 empty homes in the city, which he said be filled before more are built.

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The Abingdon resident added: “It may be true that there is urgent housing need in Oxfordshire, but this need could best be addressed by the building of genuinely affordable housing to rent or buy, not by the current system which primarily benefits landowners and housebuilders.

“That will simply add to traffic chaos and make the government’s own legally binding carbon targets even harder to achieve.”

The torturous local planning process has dominated the workload of local councils for years with all of Oxfordshire’s authorities facing vocal opposition whenever large-scale new developments are proposed.

Cherwell already has one plan, accepted in 2015, with this further document needed because of the lack of space to build in Oxford.

Spokesman Tom Slingsby said: “Cherwell District Council will not be commenting at this stage.”