COUNCIL officials are set to start discussions with an Oxford University college about a controversial development in the south of the city.

Oxford City Council is seeking discussions with Magdalen College about developing the land south of Grenoble Road.

The council has had long-held ambitions to put homes on the site but has been thwarted by the fact that the land is in the Green Belt and lies within South Oxfordshire district.

But David Edwards, the city council’s executive director for regeneration and housing, said: “The site is located within the South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) administrative boundary.

“SODC has opposed the principle of development of the site, which is designated Green Belt.

“However, the SODC local plan will need to be reviewed within a year to reflect the latest assessment of housing need. The city council has taken preliminary legal advice which supports promotion of this site for development.

“It is therefore appropriate to explore the options for pursuing development through the planning process.“ A report commissioned by Oxfordshire’s councils which was released in March says that Oxford needs 28,000 homes by 2031 while South Oxfordshire needs 15,500 by the same year.

The city council has said developing the land south of Grenoble Road is one of the answers to this problem but SODC has instead come forward with a proposal for a new town between Thame and Wallingford.

If the city council forms a partnership with Magdalen College, it will allow the two bodies to share the costs of the Grenoble Road scheme and set out a programme for the development.

Once an agreement is reached, the council says they will hire a specialist consultancy firm to advise them on developing the site and help them with their submission to SODC’s local plan.

The city council says that the land in question could accomodate up to 4,000 homes.

It totals around 166 hectares in size and 35 hectares of this is owned by the city council, with the rest owned by Magdalen College.

Rory Maw, the bursar of Magdalen College, said: “Our position has always been that if developing that land is the appropriate thing to do then we will cooperate with the council.

“Nothing has changed as far as we’re concerned.”

A spokesman for SODC said: “We welcome all contributions to our Local Plan consultation and will work hard to ensure that any future housing growth is distributed fairly across South Oxfordshire.”

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said: “We need to get into discussions with Magdalen College to ensure we are on the same page.

“They think the science park has got potential for future growth so we want to talk about how that might be related to anything we want to do.

“We have always been clear from the start that this wouldn’t just be a housing development but the housing mix has got to be right.”

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