CAMPAIGNERS fighting the sale of green fields near their picturesque community have reacted with shock to news that Oxford City Council plans to buy the sites to build at least 29 new houses.

The development will be built on land in Iffley Village, between Meadow Lane and Church Way.

Villagers, including folk singer Peggy Seeger, have been protesting against the sale of land close to their homes, and now say their concerns have been ignored.

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Stephen Thomas, 40, is a member of the Friends of Iffley Fields campaign which has been fighting to preserve the open space. He said: “I don’t think our councillors could have told us this was going to happen, but it was a shock after all these months of trying to find out who was going to buy the land.”

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“We have nearly 5,000 signatures on our petition to stop the houses being built and a significant amount of the petitioners are from the Iffley area. We know most of the residents don’t feel like they have been consulted in anyway, or knew this land was being built on.”

Read more here: Oxford City Council buys green fields to build new houses

The land has been acquired by Oxford City Housing Ltd , the city council’s housing company, as part of the Oxford Local Plan 2036.

The council’s housing company has now exchanged contracts on the two plots of land at Meadow Lane and Church Way, buying the land off Donnington Hospital Trust.

At least 29 new homes will be built on the Meadow Lane plot, with 12 of these homes being available for social rent.

The campaigners have said they do not have a 'problem' with social housing, but more with the environmental impact the housing development will bring to the previously 'untouched' land.

Rachel Falconer, 58, has also been campaigning against the building on Meadow Lane, particularly because of the impact on the environment the site will have.

She said: "We have a green artery in the city and they are proposing to destroy it for proportionally a tiny number of affordable homes.

"We are just starting this environmental push in Oxfordshire and the 2036 plan is about enhancing biodiversity and the environment, and somehow they think that biodiversity will be enhanced by building 30 houses onto two acres of green land."

Ms Falconer, along with her fellow campaigners, has also been conducting a survey to assess how much the public use Meadow Lane for recreational walks and cycling, particularly over the lockdown periods.

She said: "On Sunday we had 900 people walking up Meadow Lane, in November, you can imagine what it is like in the summer.

"I find the process extremely lacking in transparency.

"I don’t know at what stage my opinion was ever going to count for anything, and I live here, and hundreds of thousands of people live here and feel like they do not have an input so.

"For 12 affordable homes we are sacrificing the Iffley Conservation Area, the wildlife corridors and biodiversity, as well as a principle quiet cycle route that serves thousands of people in Littlemore, Rosehill, Donnington and Iffley, and we are ignoring a petition of 5000 people in favour of the green space?"

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Evelyn Sanderson, 59, who is the chair of Friends of Iffley Fields, however, added they are campaigning against the housing development because they would 'love to see a better outcome' where the whole community can benefit.

She said: "Friends of the Fields looks forward to working with our councillors to achieve the best result for the future of our community and for our natural environment. Iffley is already taking at least 84 homes on a development just 200m away. We need to achieve a balance in the light of the COVID and climate crises and have the support of 5000 people who signed our petition.

"This is for the benefit of all of Oxford - not just a backyard thing."

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The council has defended its decision stating: "Many of Oxford’s most important workers cannot afford to live in the city.

"They are now living in Bicester, Banbury, or Witney and face lengthy commutes on overcrowded roads every day.

"Oxford needs homes, and the homes in Meadow Lane will be built within the city near existing infrastructure, including jobs and bus routes."

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, cabinet member for planning and housing delivery, said: "Oxford needs homes and the acquisition of land in Iffley will mean we can build at least 29 new homes in Meadow Lane.

"In line with our Local Plan, at least 12 of these would be council homes and another three would be shared ownership or other affordable tenures.

"Too many people – including nurses, teachers, bus drivers, and shop workers – are priced out of the city they would like to call home.

"The median house price in our city is more than 10 times what a typical secondary school teacher earns and over 24 times the wages of someone working on the frontline in a supermarket.

"Over the next 10 years, OCHL will deliver 2,245 new homes. Of these, 1,125 will be council homes and a further 301 will be in other affordable tenures like shared ownership – helping meet the needs of our city’s families for secure, stable, and affordable homes."