Concerns have been raised after a planning inspector made no requirement for homes to be zero carbon in a new "garden village".

Salt Cross Garden Village north of the A40 near Eynsham is one of the first garden villages endorsed by the Government in 2017 to help meet England’s housing needs.

In addition to 2,200 new homes, Grosvenor Developments has applied to build new primary and secondary schools, sports facilities, parks and allotments.

There will also be a 27-hectare science business park.

The 531 acre site is owned by separate landowners including Corpus Christi College, Oxford and Oxfordshire County Council.

Last week West Oxfordshire District Council said the planning inspector had approved most of the council's plans, "including groundbreaking targets for biodiversity and for affordable housing."

But Councillor Carl Rylett, cabinet member for planning and sustainable development, said he was however "very disappointed" the requirement for the new homes to be built to net-zero carbon standards was not approved.

Sarah Couch, of sustainability group Green TEA (Transition Eynsham Area), said that climate change was “a golden thread” running through WODC's Area Action Plan, the document which sets out the framework for how the village should be developed through consultation with local communities.

She quoted from the plan: "Salt Cross will be known for its emphasis on the environment, quality and innovation and will tackle the challenges presented by climate change ‘head-on’  adopting a zero-carbon and natural capital based approach providing a model example of how to plan a new community for the 21st century in a logical, organic and sustainable way.  The perfect setting for wildlife and people to flourish together."

Mrs Couch said the inspector's letter said we anticipate our conclusions will come as a disappointment -  “so he knows it’s quite controversial".

She said: “To their credit West Oxfordshire did some really good work with absolute leaders in this and we were encouraging and supportive of them.

“Building is very, very damaging to the environment in many ways – I know because I am an architect. But we know how to do it and West Oxfordshire put those standards into the Area Action Plan.

“This development has been held up in international conferences as an exemplar and this would be a really bad precedent.

“This is really important as there are over 3,000 houses being built – lots of people think they are in the wrong place – but this is one of the Government’s first garden villages which were to be built to garden village principles which include zero carbon and lots of other things.

“A lot of people thought it was greenwash but West Oxfordshire really tried to make it not that. It is a huge missed opportunity and we know how to do it right- save energy, save money using local green energy and mitigate the climate crisis - and inspire others to do the same.

“It’s also much cheaper to bring the homes up to standard now than to have to do it later.”

Mr Rylett said the council "tried its best" to make it a net zero housing project but the Government needed to move faster.

He told the Oxford Mail: “The ambition to require net zero standards in the Garden Village was a very important part of the Area Action Plan, something which the council tried its best to achieve, and which had public backing in the consultations.

“The problem is that national policy has not moved fast enough to update policy and to help support councils tackle the Climate Change crisis, and I urge the Government to move faster on this crucial issue.”

But he said: "The council is absolutely committed to doing whatever it can to tackle the climate change emergency, and we will be looking at what other options are available to us to minimise any ongoing impact to the climate.”

He added: "The National Inspector's response doesn't necessarily mean that the Garden Village will not have higher standards than those set at national level. I will leave no stone unturned in trying to find a solution to raise standards for new housing, both in the Garden Village and across the District."

And he said the next steps forward will become clearer when the council receives the Inspector's full justification for the decision.

The Area Action Plan was submitted in February 2021 with the Planning Inspector holding public hearings.

The council will now consult on the Inspector's suggested changes.

Views will be sought on these through a full public consultation anticipated to take place from July 2022 for six weeks. 

For more information on the Garden Village visit