CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to fight plans for thousands of homes off the A40 that they claim will ‘kill Witney’.
Villagers from South Leigh have waged war against developer Gladman, which has just submitted a planning application for its 3,000-home ‘Barnard Gate Garden Village’.
The plans are pitched as an alternative to the Government and WODC-backed ‘garden village’ plans near Eynsham, but campaigners warn the strain the Gladman homes will ‘decimate’ the surrounding area and bring about the ‘death of Witney’.
Gladman’s plans, which were first floated early last year, include proposals for a science or business park, two new primary schools, a medical centre and pharmacy, play areas and improvements to the A40 – which include widening the road.
But despite its efforts, the developer has failed to convince those living in nearby South Leigh.
People there have formed an action group, South Leigh Against Gladman (SLAG), to fight the plans and offer support to the 2,200-home ‘garden village’ earmarked for land off the A40 near Eynsham.
They say Gladman’s plans do not fit the criteria of a ‘garden village’ and are fearful of the impact such a vast development could have.
One resident, Graham Soame, said: “As a South Leigh villager for more than 15 years and a professional planner for more than 47 years, I can see that the Gladman scheme would dramatically impact the lives of local people and fails on planning grounds.
“Just looking at two of the many issues, this scheme is all about greed and nothing at all about what is best for West Oxfordshire.
“Every weekday morning I drive eastwards from Eynsham to Witney and every day the traffic driving towards Oxford is choc-a-bloc.
“Another 3,000-plus Gladman houses would make this so much worse.
“The landscape south of this route is full of ancient hedgerows and beautiful, unspoilt rolling landscape. Is it worth losing all this when West Oxfordshire doesn’t even need this development?
“I say support the new local plan, it covers the future housing needs for the district – we don’t need Gladman.”
The district council’s local plan, which is currently being studied by a national inspector, outlines the building of 16,000 homes across the district in the next 15 years.
Within it are plans for a 2,200-home ‘garden village’ near Eynsham, which will help meet Oxford’s unmet housing need.
Gladman, however, has argued that its own ‘garden village’ plans are superior.
Previously, spokeswoman Danielle Bassi said: “We consider that the Barnard Gate garden village is a standalone settlement which offers a far better alternative to the garden village proposals north of Eynsham, which would function as a large extension to the existing village.
“It is also notable that the Eynsham proposal would be built around a concrete recycling plant and would have to overcome significant ecological and heritage constraints.”
But residents believe the so-called alternative plans are misguided, suggesting their disproportionate scale will have a destructive effect.
Karen Foggett, who lives in Chapel Road in the village, said: “Gladman’s proposal to build 3,000-plus new homes alongside the tiny village of South Leigh is highly disproportionate in scale, and would result in decimation of the village and its bucolic surroundings.
“Gladman’s proposal to introduce two new roundabouts along a very short stretch of the A40 is tantamount to traffic suicide, and suggests they have failed to appropriately assess the traffic impact of their proposed development.
“South Leigh is inextricably linked to the town of Witney through its status as a close neighbour, just as Eynsham is considered to be a neighbour of Oxford.
“Considering the new development will be serving some of Oxford City’s unmet housing needs, it is logical that WODC should choose to locate the garden village at Eynsham.”
In its vision statement, the developer says: “We will provide a range of new homes, education facilities, high quality public spaces, improvements to transportation (buses and widening of the A40), high quality community facilities such as primary schools, a village hall and shops, and employment opportunities.
“Achieving this will help Barnard Gate Garden Village to form a strong community and become part of Oxfordshire and its people.”
The leader of West Oxfordshire District Council James Mills emphasised that Gladman’s plans are not supported by the Government or within the council’s local plan. He encouraged people to comment on both the Local Plan and Gladman’s application, when possible.
Though submitted to the district council, Gladman’s planning application is still moving through the registration process.
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