THE strength of feeling about where new housing will be built is crystal-clear after West Oxfordshire District Council received more than 3,000 comments on its draft Local Plan.

Councillors and officers were clearly taken by surprise at the scale of feedback, as drafting of a final version of the plan has now been delayed.

The hold-up means that although the council can argue it has now secured enough land for new homes for the next few years, it finds itself in a position where it remains vulnerable to speculative developments.

The 700-home Carterton East scheme approved two weeks ago faced huge opposition, but its approval meant the council can now say it is able to meet its housing needs over the next five years.

But without an agreed Local Plan, developers can claim there is no clear long-term strategy in the district for housing, offering them an opportunity to argue their case on appeal.

Of course, it does no one any favours to rush through the Local Plan, because without enough evidence, it may be rejected when scrutinised by a planning inspector.

However, the longer it is left, then the more likely schemes such as the 270-home development in Witney’s Windrush Valley are to keep appearing.

The draft Local Plan was always going to attract a high volume of comments during the public consultation.

The council should perhaps have foreseen this. We can only hope there will be no more delays before a Local Plan is in place at last.