The future of housing development in Banbury has been thrown into question as developer Gallagher withdrew a plan for 1,000 homes weeks before a public inquiry scheduled for May.
Although many will be relieved the Salt Way plan – which would have swallowed up several fields between the A361 and Bodicote – has been pulled, those concerned with preserving the integrity of the town have raised new fears.
Rob Kinchin-Smith, chairman of Banbury Civic Society, said he would not be surprised if Gallagher reassessed its options and came back with an extended application.
“This is inexplicable. Maybe they’re going away and coming back with a bigger development. It was thought Salt Way would be a neat edge for the expansion of Banbury, then it was Wykham Lane and now they might want to go north to Broughton Road,” he said.
“I don’t believe they are backing out but I would be very happy to be proved wrong.”
Mr Kinchin-Smith said Oxfordshire County Council had agreed to provide an extra 20,000 homes over and above the official Oxfordshire quota and that Cherwell has agreed to take 5,000 of those houses.
“Cherwell has gone along with this and offered to provide another 5,000 homes, as if it did not have enough problems already,” he said.
It is understood council bosses believe developer Gallagher might intend to use the forthcoming public inquiry into the local plan as a means of testing its unpopular proposal. It is thought the company might feel it has a good case because of Cherwell District Council’s failure to have shown it has a five-year housing supply.
Cherwell needs to show it can build 16,750 homes in the 20 years from 2006-31 but a recent housing strategy assessment has taken that figure to 22,000 homes. A new study has been commissioned to examine the feasibility of that demand.