South Oxfordshire council told homes plan 'could be taken over'

Grenoble Road Image copyright Google
Image caption Thousands of houses have been planned for land south of the Grenoble Road area for years

A council has been told the government could take over the running of a controversial homes plan hours before the authority was set to scrap it.

South Oxfordshire District Council's cabinet previously agreed it would urge councillors to throw out its local plan to build 28,500 homes.

But communities secretary Robert Jenrick said he was considering taking the plan out of the council's control.

The plan - a blueprint for development - has so far cost the council £3.6m.

It includes proposals to build thousands of homes on green and brown belt sites, including Grenoble Road, Culham and Chalgrove Airfield.

Councillors have warned building 28,500 new homes before 2034 is excessive, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

'Create uncertainty'

The government previously told the council and other Oxfordshire authorities that hundreds of millions of pounds in funding for the county would be at risk if the plan was scrapped.

Mr Jenrick said he was now "considering whether to give a direction" to the council on how to proceed with the plan under planning law.

In a letter to the council's leader Sue Cooper, Mr Jenrick said withdrawing the local plan was "likely to create uncertainty and expose communities to speculative planning applications".

He ordered the council should "not to take any step in connection with the adoption of the plan, while I consider the matter further".

But Mark Stone, the council's chief executive, has challenged the ruling and said the council was doing nothing wrong.

In a letter sent to Mr Jenrick on Thursday, he said "there was no proper basis" for the decision.

He wrote: "The council remains committed to delivering a sound local plan and considers it of the utmost importance to uphold the vital principles of local democracy.

"It is in no one's interest for the local plan to be placed on hold."

All Oxfordshire councils signed up to the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal with government in March 2018, which meant they would be given funds to build 100,000 homes.

But in local elections in May, the Liberal Democrats and Green Party replaced the Conservatives in South Oxfordshire and want to build fewer homes across the county.

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