PROTESTERS paced the perimeter of a planned development that would dwarf a rural village near Abingdon.

Villagers in Culham, which had a population of just 453 people in the 2011 Census, were ‘outraged’ by a proposal to invade their Green Belt with 3,500 homes.

South Oxfordshire District Council wants to deliver ‘innovative’ housing in Culham to promote the continued success of Culham Science Centre.

Residents hit back with a protest walk last week, wearing green ribbon belts and carrying branches to signify the supposedly sacred status of Green Belt land.

Culham resident Sophie Wilson said: “Residents are outraged that the plan described the beautiful open countryside allocated as ‘suburban in nature’ – Culham is an ancient village with a small population.

“The major impact of such a development would be severe congestions on the roads and villages around Abingdon.”

The council ringed land between Culham and neighbouring Clifton Hampden as one of three key housing sites, in a preferred options report for its forthcoming Local Plan.

The document was published in March and set out a provisional vision for development, also allocating 3,000 homes at Chalgrove Airfield and 2,100 in Berinsfield.

Campaigners walked around fields between Abingdon Road and the River Thames during the demonstration last Monday, encompassing the 189-hectare parcel of land for which homes and a 12-pitch travellers’ site are proposed.

Social group Ladies of Culham organised the event to promote the importance of the Green Belt, which is legally protected against development unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ emerge.

Caroline Baird, who is a member of the social group, said amenities and road infrastructure ‘cannot cope’ with the population swell.

She said the plan came as a ‘big shock’ as previous consultation had suggested the council would instead favour a new village called Harrington, on brownfield land near Great Haseley.

Environmental charity the Campaign to Protect Rural England has also opposed the new settlement at Culham, accusing the council of adopting a ‘cavalier attitude towards the Green Belt’.

John Cotton, SODC leader said: "The Culham site was identified in our consultation last summer, but - with its strong transport links and proximity to a major jobs site - we have now asked for detailed views on its suitability for housing."

He added all comments would be considered carefully, and that there would be more opportunities for people to have their say.