CAMPAIGNERS have urged planners to use Jericho as a model for development across the rest of Oxford – claiming that increased density could halt the destruction of Green Belt land.

Oxford City Council's Local Plan has revealed that eight more sites on protected land around the city could be developed for housing by 2036.

But the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has said the land could be spared if the density of housing development in the city matched central Paris, Barcelona, or even Oxford’s own Jericho.

As well as looking to build homes on Green Belt land around the city, a large portion of the city’s unmet housing need has had to be picked up by Oxfordshire’s district councils. Cherwell District Council, for example, is preparing to build 3,900 homes on Green Belt land between Oxford and Kidlington.

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said the city is doing what it can to use land as efficiently as possible – but said the unmet need is simply too high to tackle through increased density alone.

Michael Tyce, a trustee of CPRE's Oxfordshire branch, said: "We are having to rely on district councils to build all that housing in the Green Belt, and they don't need to build them at all.

"Nothing has to be farmed out and we don't need to eat into more Green Belt land around the city. As the density increases, the houses will be much smaller and therefore more affordable, which is what we need.

“People have been taught to think high density means tower blocks, but it doesn't.

"Jericho is actually more efficient than a tower block and it's a very attractive place, there's never a shortage of people wanting to buy in the area. The houses are packed in there."

Mr Price told the Oxford Mail that the Local Plan put a great deal of focus on density.

He said: “If you look at the Local Plan carefully you will find there is a very clear direction of travel in favour of greater density in new developments. All those we are currently looking at have significantly higher densities than in the past.

“The scale of unmet need is such that increasing the density of housing developments would not meet it.”

The council leader also stated that merely imitating Jericho was not good enough and that the plan was about creating new urban environments that would appeal to people.

If the land allocated for the 7,500 homes Oxford City says it has room for was built to the density of Islington, less dense than central Paris and Barcelona, it would then have room for 14,000 – creating the total of homes the districts are currently trying to find outside Oxford.

As well as ordering further investigation into whether homes could be built on the eight Green Belt sites in Marston, Wolvercote and land near Redbridge Park and Ride, the Local Plan sets aside 164 hectares of employment land.

Mr Tyce said if that was high density housing instead, 12,300 homes could be built, while CPRE Oxfordshire’s director Helen Marshall said creating more employment land would exacerbate issues with the jobs-housing balance.”

Mr Price dismissed this argument as ‘nonsense’.

He added: “You can’t have lots and lots of houses with no jobs. It’s important we maintain a strong employment base because that’s the engine of the economy in Oxford and the economy keeps the city going.”

The city council launched its draft Local Plan last Friday. The consultation will last for a period of six weeks.