Jubilant campaigners are celebrating after winning a 21-month battle to save green space between their village and Didcot.
Campaign group Mind The Green Gap had fought plans for 170 homes on land between Didcot and East Hagbourne for more than a year and a half.
The protesters cheered as plans to build the homes east of New Road were rejected in May last year, but developers Grainger plc appealed the decision last summer.
The green gap hearing ended in January and last week an inspector revealed that Grainger’s appeal had been dismissed due to ‘character and substantial environmental harm’ to the area.
Campaigners are delighted.
Andy Barmer, Mind the Green Gap’s chairman, said: “The sense of relief and joy around the area is enormous. There are pats on the back and smiles all round.
“When we first heard about Grainger’s plans many people said it was a done deal and that fighting against them was a waste of time. I am glad we disagreed and took on the system.”
The protest group was set up in July 2015 to fight the plans, which were submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) in September 2015.
The plans were for homes on land east of New Road, which joins Didcot and East Hagbourne, by the Didcot Community Allotment site.
A report published ahead of last year’s meeting by SODC officers recommended approval.
On behalf of the Secretary of State, inspector Katie Child, who visited the site in January, said in her appeal decision that the site “is a valued landscape” and noted its importance as “the last remaining notable countryside break between Didcot and East Hagbourne adjoining New Road”.
Publishing her decision on Tuesday last week, she added: “The appeal
site possesses notable perceptual, scenic and representative qualities, which elevate it above mere countryside.”
In summary she said: “Overall the substantial environmental harm arising from increased coalescence and to the character and setting of Didcot and East Hagbourne leads me to conclude that the adverse effects of the proposal would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits found.”
Having saved the green gap, Mr Barmer admitted they have learnt “a lot as a community”.
This, he said, included: “How to work together – it’s not easy. How to stand up and be heard. How democracy is not just about voting; it’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting involved.
“It is not just winning this appeal that is important, it is what we have learnt along the way. It feels good.”
Mayor of Didcot Steve Connel said: “Because Didcot is expected to grow at a phenomenal rate for the foreseeable future it is becoming more and more important that we help protect our neighbours.
“I actually led the Didcot town council planning meetings around this subject and much like the council’s position on Ladygrove Park we were clear in our statement of refusal on two seperate occasions.”
John Beresford, development director at Grainger plc, said the developers are “disappointed and surprised” at the appeal dismissal.
He said: “Didcot has long been identified for social and economic growth and we believe that our site is one of a number which could aid in delivering this growth, while providing a range of housing, particularly for those in housing need.
“The pressures of delivering housing to meet both demand and housing need were not disputed by any party at the appeal, and we will review and reflect on the decision before discussing with our advisors.”