A SHORTAGE of land in Oxford is forcing planning bosses to choose between controversial developments on the city's green spaces or asking neighbouring areas to shoulder yet more homes.
Alex Hollingsworth, Oxford City Council's planning chief, admitted a major shake-up of planning rules was unlikely to tackle the housing crisis in full.
He is currently leading a review of the Local Plan – the blueprint for development – that is expected to propose taller buildings and denser developments.
But his task to find room for 14,250 homes by 2031 would mean doubling the amount it is believed there is space for – just 7,500.
To boost that number, the senior councillor said taller and more dense developments would have to be considered.
But he added: "The gut feeling is even if we make significant changes, we still might not be able to meet the need.
"We are trying to build as many homes as possible, but you also have to protect the elements of Oxford that are crucial, like its environment and its way of life.
"You could theoretically cram more houses in, for instance, if you built on Port Meadow – but clearly no one would want to do that.
"The council is looking at every single thing that it can, but there are limits."
If it cannot provide space for the full 14,250 homes alone, Mr Hollingsworth said Oxford would have to look to its neighbours to build more.
This would be on top of those they have already agreed to. Last year, Cherwell, West Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire district councils said they would build 13,750 homes in their areas to help the city meet the city's estimated demand of 28,000.
But they claim it needs to do more within its own boundaries and have called for sites it has ruled out to be developed, including Oxford Golf Club, Oxford Stadium, Rewley Road Fire Station, Northfield School, the former Rover car park next to the Eastern Bypass, Donnington Recreation Ground and the Blanchford builder's yard in Headington.
Together a report claimed these would deliver another 2,100 homes and also noted the 'unknown potential' of sites that would no longer be in flood zones when the Oxford Flood Alleviation channel is built.
It also argued protections for views and open spaces should be softened.
The city council is due to publish its draft Local Plan in the coming months and if it rejects the other councils' proposals it could spark a stand-off.
Matthew Barber, leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said Oxford needed to 'pull its weight' and insisted he would reject any calls for his area to take on more housing.
He said: "We all accept the principle that Oxford cannot address its full housing need on its own.
"But we have all been through a painful process – which has a real impact on people's lives – and the city cannot now say it won't keep its end of the bargain.
"There is an awful lot they can still do, much of it unpalatable, but they will have to make difficult decisions just as other authorities have done.
"They may have to, for instance, look at sites they want to use for employment – because there is no point in encouraging economic growth if you can't provide the housing needed to support it."
Possible sites that Oxford City Council could suggest for housing outside its boundaries include land south of Grenoble Road, a suggestion it has long championed because it owns land there.
It claims thousands of homes could be built on the Green Belt land but this is fiercely opposed by countryside campaigners.
The Campaign for Rural England's Oxfordshire branch claims building on this currently-protected land would lead to more Green Belt land being developed.
It said: "Once attacked in this way, there will be little to stand in the way of the complete dismantling of the Oxford Green Belt."