VILLAGERS in South Oxfordshire declared a 'thumping' victory as a controversial proposal for hundreds of homes in rural land was rejected after a strenuous three-year battle.

Estate agent Savills, working on behalf of St John's College, Oxford, which owns the land near Abingdon, had its plan for up to 660 new properties, a care facility for up to 70 beds and a primary school dismissed by the Vale of White Horse Planning Committee.

The developer also sought permission for the construction of a link road on the east side of the site between the A420 to the north and the A415 to the south, and two roundabouts.

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The proposed housing estate for the 85-acre field between Kingston Bagpuize and the historic village of Fyfield was hailed 'unsustainable' and 'inappropriate', with 'severe' impact on traffic and associated air quality pollution as a result.

The large-scale development has been hugely controversial with villagers since plans were first revealed in 2017.

Oxfordshire County Council and six parish councils objected to the estate and nearly 100 letters from residents were received against it.

A number of residents also went on to form a campaign group against the plan called Fyfield Land Action Group (FLAG).

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One member Nick Smith even wrote a play in which the group kidnapped a professor at St John's in an attempt to derail the housing development.

The application was amended twice last year to take account of comments from the county council and technical officers.

This resulted in a reduction of the homes from 700 to 660, on site sport provision, urban design principles, heritage impacts, together with additional supporting information about drainage, air quality and highways.

The principal of the development was supported in the Vale’s Local Plan Part 2 (LPP2).

n outline of the land where St Johns College, Oxford, is hoping to build 700 homes. Picture: Google Maps

n outline of the land where St John's College, Oxford, is hoping to build 700 homes. Picture: Google Maps

However, the planning committee highlighted that the application had failed to address the major modifications required by the independent inspector of LPP2 relating to traffic congestion on the local road network and air quality problems in Marcham.

Julian Mellor, chairman of Fyfield and Tubney Parish Council, spoke at the planning committee meeting last week on behalf of the 'overwhelming' number of parishioners who objected the proposal.

He summarised four key problems: the local road network, which is 'over capacity', including the A420 that runs in the middle of the parish and has 'detrimental effect' to all residents; the lack of local public transport; loss of farmland and overstretched local schools and healthcare services.

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Mr Mellor said: "Further pressure on the road cannot be accommodated and improving the interchange in Botley will not address these issues.

"It has also never made sense to build housing for up to 1,000 workers in a location that will force the majority to drive to work on already congested roads.

"These problems only strengthen the argument that the site is not sustainable."

The chairman also accused the developer for 'infinitely wasting' the time and money of local authorities and taxpayers.

Councillor David Warr, chair of the planning subcommittee of Southmoor Parish Council, also raised great concerns over the 'unprecedented growth of what was once a village into a town'.

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He said: "We lack any sort of infrastructure to support a community of this size except for two Co-op shops.

"Developers have cashed in on Help-to-Buy schemes and left the parish council with a host of additional responsibilities."

It is unclear whether St John's will appeal the committee's decision, however, FLAG pointed out that it is a 'victory for local democracy, for the open spaces of the Vale and for the environment'.