FUTURE student housing in Botley could be blocked after changes to Vale of White Horse District Council’s Local Plan.

An agreement reached between council leader Matthew Barber and North Hinksey councillor Debby Hallett means Botley is no longer classed as a ‘district centre in the context of Oxford City’.

Oxford City Council’s policy for development outlines ‘district centres’ as potential sites for student housing development.

The £100m West Way regeneration scheme put forward by developers Doric Properties includes 525 student rooms along with a cinema, gym, hotel and supermarket.

It is believed the change is unlikely to affect the West Way plans, as the Local Plan is unlikely to come into effect for at least another year, but campaign group West Way Community Concern believes this concession is significant.

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Mrs Hallett said: “This agreement protects Botley against developers’ attempts to insinuate Oxford policy in the Vale Local Plan.

“I’m greatly relieved that it’s been removed from our Vale policy.

“It protects the Vale as well as the people of Botley from speculative development of student housing.”

The phrase has been removed from the part of the Vale’s Local Plan with Legal weight.

It is understood Mr Barber will provide a letter signed by senior Vale council officers and councillors to reaffirm that they will not view Botley as a district centre of Oxford City, and will therefore not apply the earmarked student housing policy to the area.

Community concern co-chairman Chris Church said: “It shows the Vale are realising how problematic this is and that they can’t just bulldoze [the West Way] through.”

Emily Smith, from North Hinksey, said: “Botley never should have been described as a district centre of Oxford.

“Removing this misleading terminology from the Local Plan makes it even harder for Doric to justify the ridiculous amount of student housing in their planning application.

“The case for Doric’s proposals continues to unravel.”

Judy Roberts, Vale councillor for Appleton and Cumnor, said: “The populations of the city districts are 2.5 to four times larger than that of Botley and the only reason to include this equivalence in the Local Plan was to justify the oversized development, especially the retail and student accommodation elements, in the Doric/Mace scheme.”

Huw Griffiths, from Doric’s partners Mace, said: “It is our understanding that the change is inconsequential in terms of planning policy.”

Vale of White Horse District Council spokesman Andy Roberts said: "The minor change to the wording regarding Botley is to provide clarity about what is background information and what is policy.

"Moving the phrase 'equivalent to a district centre in the Oxford city context' from Core Policy 11 itself and putting it the background text to that policy has no impact on the planning policy.  It is a minor change intended to clarify Botley's relationship with its surroundings, including areas outside of the Vale district."

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