Campaigners in North Oxfordshire have launched a petition to save a “national treasure” from being destroyed by the Oxford to Cambridge expressway.
The #SaveOtmoor campaign is more than a quarter of the way to achieving the 10,000 signatures required to force the government to respond.
The 1,000 acre rare wetland and grazing floodplain in Otmoor, just south of Bicester, is under threat from the proposed expressway.
One of the suggested routes would cut straight through the Green Belt, including the nature reserve and sites of special scientific interest, to the south of Oxford.
More than 60 rare and protected species share the ancient fen.
The campaign attracted numerous comments slamming the proposals.
Furious campaigners said the plan is “totally outrageous”, “farcical”, “laughable”, “selfish” and “a disaster”.
Another said: “Why do our decision makers choose to destroy this unique landscape with another road when we don’t even have money to keep the roads and services we already have?”
The Expressway Action Group are the umbrella group behind the petition. They said Otmoor was a “unique and beautiful habitat” adding “Otmoor is a conservation area the government’s own laws were designed to protect”.
“Now the government threatens to build a motorway here that would engulf this sanctuary. Because the government has turned down our demands for a public inquiry, the decision will now be made behind closed doors.”
Oxfordshire County Council said it was unable to provide a formal response to the proposed expressway until Highways England publishes a preferred route.
The council called for a public inquiry into the need for the road and its impact in December 2017.
Responding to Highways England in April, the council said: “We welcome the further development work and engagement taking place on the Expressway project and the opportunity to give views to Highways England. At this stage, Oxfordshire is not able to indicate a corridor preference, given that the technical and other supporting work required to inform the decision on a preferred corridor is not yet complete.”
The council put forward three principles that should be integral to the corridor selection and decision-making process.
These include ensuring the “already overstretched” A34 is not impacted, the expressway does use other existing road networks, and the road is developed separately alongside planned highway enhancements.
To sign the petition which runs until October 16, go to https://bit.ly/2HwYgwX