A CONTROVERSIAL application to build 160 homes in south Abingdon has prompted renewed calls to improve the A34.

Vale of White Horse District Council’s head of planning Adrian Duffield refused the application in January on several grounds, primarily that it would lead to “unacceptable” levels of congestion.

However, planning inspector John Watson last Thursday made his decision to grant permission for 159 of the homes.

He said that no development could begin before Oxfordshire County Council guaranteed it would build a new pedestrian crossing nearby to help mitigate the impact of traffic.

Town council leader Sandy Lovatt said: “He’s going to jam up the town centre.

“If they’re going to do this they should open up the Lodge Hill A34 junction to traffic both ways.”

Sheffield-based developer Hallam Land Management estimated the homes would bring an extra 100 vehicles to the road every day.

Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said she was “deeply disappointed” with the decision.

She added: “Anyone who lives in Abingdon knows that building more on the Drayton Road is only going to cause more traffic misery.

“That is why I joined with local residents opposing this application at every stage and why the town council, the district council and the county council opposed it too.

“I shall continue my campaign for more investment to improve the A34, especially at Lodge Hill, but this decision is shortsighted and not in the interests of the local community.”

Mr Watson based his decision on the Vale of White Horse District Council’s inability to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing.

He wrote: “The council refers to its five-year housing land supply statement of July 2012, which shows a 3.3 year supply.

“I conclude that the appeal scheme would make a valuable contribution toward meeting a keenly-felt need for new market and affordable housing in Abingdon, and I attribute considerable weight to that.”

Hallam said that in the morning rush hour there were currently 609 vehicles travelling north and 627 going south on Drayton Road.

In order to help alleviate congestion, Mr Watson approved of Hallam’s proposal to create a new pedestrian crossing on Ock Street east of Drayton Road and that the current crossing to the west of Drayton Road on Marcham Road be moved further west.

The hope is that pedestrians crossing would break up the flow of traffic along the A415, Marcham Road turning into Ock Street, and allow cars queueing on Drayton Road to enter the flow.

Mr Watson has made it a requirement in his permission that before any development work begins, the county council must either give the council written confirmation that both the crossing works will be done, or do the actual work.