'RIDICULOUS' plans to build 3,000 homes at Chalgrove Airfield have been thrown into doubt after a military company refused to give up its land.

Ejector seat company Martin Baker, whose on the site runs until 2063, has informed South Oxfordshire District Council it will not be amending it to include housing as it wants to expand its own operations.

Villagers welcomed the news and said the 700 letters written to the firm's CEO, James Martin, may have persuaded him to defy the council and Government – whose Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) owns the land.

The council said it would now wait for HCA to confirm its 'future intentions' with the site but campaigners feared a Compulsory Purchase Order could still be used to secure the housing.

Chairman of Chalgrove Airfield Action Group, Paul Boone, said: "We are absolutely delighted.

"We have always had a very strong response from people in the community at all the various stages of consultation but it has largely been ignored.

"It has been the first opportunity we can appeal to someone who doesn't just deal in planning speak and actually express our feelings over the project – it's great that that has been listened to."

The homes have been included in SODC's Local Plan as part of the local authority's contribution to Oxford's unmet housing need, but were met with strong opposition over congestion and fears it would destroy the area.

Discussions between Martin Baker and the HCA to build housing on the airfield have taken place over the past year and the government body said in October it remained positive an agreement would be made.

But the community groups has now been informed Martin Baker has rejected an offer for housing on the site.

SODC councillor for Chalgrove, David Turner, said the community was delighted.

He said: "We are required to provide 3,750 homes to help meet the need of Oxford city but putting that at Chalgrove Airfield was ridiculous – it's an isolated rural community and would have cost an absolute fortune in road improvements.

"In Chalgrove we are delighted, the overwhelming opinion of people in the village and surrounding area was that it would cause chaos and it wouldn't help the city of Oxford either.

Mr Turner said the 'only worry' left was that the Government could use a Compulsory Purchase Order to bring forward the homes – after the Chancellor Philip Hammond called for 'muscular government action' on land in his Budget speech in November.

He said: "Our worry is that they will use a CPO but that would be stupid in this case.

"They would be interfering with a major UK employer – the largest employer in the area – and a strategic defence supplier.

"I hope they just swallow this – they will have spent quite a lot of public money bringing this forward and I hope they recognise it's a non-starter."

Head of communications at SODC, Andy Roberts, said: "The Homes and Communities Agency owns Chalgrove airfield and is seeking to develop part of the site through the local plan process – it would include a mix of development types including housing, whilst retaining the current tenant Martin Baker and their international business.

"We are waiting for the HCA to confirm its future intentions for the site, following their recent negotiations with their tenant; Martin Baker.

"In the meantime we are compiling the comments received on our forthcoming local plan during the formal consultation carried out in November last year.”