A PLAN to build more than 10,000 homes in Oxford over the next 16 years has been approved.

Oxford City Council's Local Plan for development until 2036 was given the go-ahead by two government planning inspectors.

As well as sites for 10,884 new homes, the plan also allocates land for new shops, cycle paths, and also regulations for how sustainable new buildings should be.

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The government inspectors looked through the huge document in December and have now told the council the plan can be legally put in place, with some small changes.

The city council is now due to discuss the inspectors’ recommendations on June 8, before it makes the necessary changes and then officially adopts the new rule book.

Groups including the Campaign to Protect Rural England have criticised the plan because it sacrifices land in the Green Belt, a ring of countryside around Oxford designed to stop the city spreading endlessly.

The inspectors said the council would be allowed to build on some Green Belt land, as Oxford is a small city with very little space for new homes.

Overall, inspectors Jonathan Bore and Nick Fagan agreed with the city’s plan to grow the number of homes in the city.

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A planning map of Oxford. Highlighted in red: new sites for housing and other developments in Oxford. Picture: Oxford City Council

The inspectors also took a dim view of those who tried to stop new homes being built on the Green Belt.

They wrote: “Limiting the growth of the city would have serious effects on the ability to meet housing need, including affordable housing; attempting to meet Oxford’s housing and employment needs in locations further away from the city would encourage less sustainable movement patterns.”

The inspectors also praised plans to build 'mixed development' areas around at places including Summertown and Temple Cowley, where shops, offices and new homes would go up alongside each other.

However, they also recommended changes.

These included finding a better way to stop queuing outside the John Radcliffe Hospital and setting out the specific targets of how sustainable new homes in the city should be.

While the government has promised to reduce all carbon emissions –including from housing – to net zero by 2050, the city wants all new homes built from 2030 to be net zero.

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The two inspectors also confirmed that the district councils surrounding Oxford needed to build 14,300 homes to help meet the city’s ‘unmet housing need’.

This, they said, was because the city’s boundaries were too small to allow it to grow much bigger.

West Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have already agreed to build their share of these homes within commutable distance of the city.

Michael Tyce, a trustee of the Oxfordshire branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) criticised the inspectors for acting like ‘lemmings’, because they had agreed with planning inspectors who reviewed West Oxfordshire and Vale’s plans.

He added: “Following that route means losing swathes of Green Belt open space inside the city to development and even vaster swathes of Green Belt around the city’s edge to urban sprawl – the very thing the Green Belt was intended to prevent.”

Oxford's Local Plan alone allocates land for 724 new homes in the Green Belt.

Including the four other districts around the city, the total would be much higher, with CPRE estimating that as many as 19,234 homes could be built in the Green Belt.

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Picture: CPRE Oxfordshire

Some of this would help with Oxford’s unmet housing need, others would help other councils meet their needs.

Alex Hollingsworth, Oxford City Council’s cabinet member for planning and sustainable transport, said: “This new Local Plan determines the homes, jobs, community facilities and infrastructure for the next twenty years, striking the right balance between the different pressures that Oxford and its people face.

“It makes a priority of providing affordable new homes, and high quality jobs, so that young people can afford to live and work in their home city; it focuses growth and development on district centres, not just on the city centre, to make sure that shops, community centres and facilities are close to homes; and it prioritises walking, cycling and public transport to help tackle congestion and pollution on our streets.

“But, at the same time, the Local Plan aims to preserve what makes Oxford a fantastic place to live, work and visit: our world-famous heritage, our community, leisure and cultural facilities, and our network of parks, green spaces and waterways.”