Lower Heyford plan is dropped by college

Residents of Lower Heyford breathed a communal sigh of relief last week after an Oxford college dropped out of plans to build 5,000 homes on their doorstep.

Thursday, 5th May 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 6th May 2016, 11:42 am
5000 homes plan at Lower Heyford. Cllr. James Macnamara. NNL-160426-165336009

Parish council chairman James Macnamara said there was overwhelming feeling of gratitude to Corpus Christi College which reconsidered selling 783 acres of farmland to a speculative developer on which to build housing for Oxford.

Mr Macnamara, who lives in the village, said: “I received an email from John Harrison, the bursar of Corpus Christi, to say the fellows had reconsidered and decided not to go ahead.”

The plan, by Bonner Allan, was lodged with Cherwell District Council as one of 126 proposals received to contribute to the housing need of Oxford city, which does not have sufficient land of its own to meet future need.

It suggested a site on farmland between Lower Heyford and the former Upper Heyford airbase, itself being redeveloped for housing in a settlement called Great Heyford.

The plan contained 5,000 homes, shops, health centres, a park and ride, primary and secondary schools surrounding a country park and with land earmarked for commercial and light industrial use.

The site hinged on good rail links to Oxford and Banbury from the village’s small station. The developers planned to meet Network Rail and Great Western Railways in a bid to get the line between the city and Banbury upgraded to accommodate commuter movement of the 12,000 new residents of Great Heyford.

Lower Heyford villagers had flocked to a parish council meeting where Bonner Allan directors explained their proposal.

On Thursday, a few hours after the news appeared in the Banbury Guardian, Mr Macnamara received the college’s email and took the news to villagers at a gathering at the church.

“There is a pop-up cafe in there on Thursdays where some of the older people meet,” he said.

“The whole village had been very panicked by the plan and they were hugely relieved that the college had backed out.

“It completely restores relations with Corpus Christi who have behaved so well,” said Mr Macnamara.

“We had had offers pouring in from people wanting to help form an action group. It shows the emotion and passion this had stirred up and the relief when it was withdrawn.

“It has saved a huge amount of anxiety and stress which would have been an 18-month ordeal for the village until the examination in public of the second phase of the Cherwell Local Plan in late 2017, when a final decision on extra development is made.

“People’s lives would have been put on hold in terms of moving in or out of the village,” said Mr Macnamara.

Mr Harrison told the Banbury Guardian: “Our response is absolutely unambiguous. We have terminated our work with Bonner Allan. We are no longer in a partnership.”