Campaigners are claiming victory in their three-year battle to stop dumping of fuel ash at Radley Lakes, near Abingdon.

Thrupp Lake has been handed a lifeline after the Waste Recycling Group was given permission to take an extra 400,000 tonnes of spent pulverised fuel ash from Didcot Power Station that had been earmarked for the gravel pit.

Oxfordshire County Council's decision has been greeted with joy by the Save Radley Lakes campaign group.

Members have so far spent more than £50,000 and raised 11,500 signatures on a petition to fight RWE npower's plans to dump ash in the eight-hectare site.

Protesters hope the ruling means the power station owner will not need to dump any ash into the man-made lake before the 2,000 megawatt station's planned closure in 2015.

RWE npower had won permission to dump the ash in Thrupp Lake, but tonight said it was extremely unlikely.

The decision by the county council's planning committee comes 18 months after campaigners identified WRG's spare capacity at the Sutton Courtenay landfill site.

SRL chairman Dr Basil Crowley said: "This is an excellent outcome. As far as we can see, the stockpile at Sutton Courtenay will take all the ash that might otherwise have gone into Thrupp Lake.

"We're very pleased. We have always said there ought to be a better way to dispose of Didcot's ash and there seems to be no need at all now for npower to destroy Thrupp Lake."

Helen Beckett, of Selwyn Crescent, Radley, said it was excellent news, adding: "The majority of the village still use those lakes to go walking, they're just so beautiful."

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Dr Evan Harris said: "I'm delighted. This should finally ensure that Thrupp Lake has a long and healthy future."

Although npower says it has no plans to use the lake, it has not ruled having to make an emergency dump if the building industry market for some of the 250,000 tonnes of pulverised ash it produces every year dries up.

Spokesman Leon Flexman said: "It would be a last resort but if the National Grid asks us to go up to maximum capacity in an emergency, and we have no other spare room, the ash would have to go in the lake.

"We still need to draw up a satisfactory contract with WRG and we need to hope there is not a severe downturn in the housing market, meaning people don't want to take our ash."