A HISTORIC bridge was saved from demolition after councillors voted against controversial plans to destroy the structure.

Vale of White Horse District Council's planning committee refused Network Rail's application to demolish the grade-II listed bridge at a meeting this evening as it was unconvinced the wider national benefit had been demonstrated.

The rail company insisted the project, which would have caused a 10-month road closure and cut off a major route into the village, was the only way to electrify the line.

And councillors rejected the plan against the advice of their planning officers, who had said demolition should be approved.

The Vale's conservation officer said they 'regrettably accepted' the evidence from Network Rail.

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Nevertheless, Last night's decision marks a huge victory for campaigners who have spent four years rallying against the plans.

They claimed destroying the bridge would have a negative impact on businesses in the village and presented their case at this evening's meeting.

Steventon Parish Council chairman Chris Wilding was one of those to fight against the bridge's demolition and he reinforced the importance of the resolution on local businesses. 

He said: "We're exceedingly delighted by the decision.

"It came out that they clearly had taken no consideration into local sustainability and economics.

"In no time since 2013 have they discussed what the effect would be on businesses in Steventon so we welcome this decision."

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The bridge's future was originally due to be decided at a planning committee meeting in May, but councillors wanted further information on alternatives and opted to defer.

Representatives from Network Rail made their case at tonight's meeting in Wantage, while Matthew Barber, district councillor for Steventon and the Hanneys, spoke out against the plans.

Mr Barber hailed the committee's decision after the meeting, tweeting 'common sense prevails'.

Network Rail first proposed the plans four years ago and Steventon resident Robert Green, who campaigned against the bridge's demolition, believed tonight's decision was a logical outcome.

He said: "It's been a long road - four years working with Historic England and as the years went past it was clear the technology was all moving in our favour.

Fellow campaigner Julie Mabberley agreed, adding: "The technology is moving so fast that there's no reason to destroy something that's survived since the start of the railways just for a short term gain."