MORE Than £400,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent on building the case to expand Oxford's Seacourt Park and Ride, it has been revealed.

A Freedom of Information Request made by Oxfordshire Badger Group has shown that Oxford City Council has spent a total of £411,337 on preparing and improving its planning application to its own planning department.

Almost all of that, the badger group concluded, went on a succession of ‘expert consultancy reports’ to bolster the council’s case.

In a letter to the Oxford Mail about the revelation, the badger group said the costly reports flew in the face of the 'comprehensive, strongly argued and compelling case for refusal' which has been made by all the objectors to the scheme, who include Oxfordshire County Council, both of Oxford's MPs, Oxford Flood Alliance, the badger group and the Co-op supermarket.

Defending the plans, Oxford City Council board member for planning Alex Hollingsworth said: "The council recognises that this planning application is contentious and is contrary to some aspects of guidance, but there are exceptional circumstances that underpin it.

“Botley Road has serious traffic congestion, and Seacourt Park and Ride is often completely full, with regular complaints from users.

"With the new Westgate now open and bringing additional people into the city centre as well as the predicted growth of employment and population numbers across Oxford, there is an urgent need to expand the park and ride to counteract increases in traffic levels on the Botley Road."

Discussing the money spent on the project so far he said: "Costs of this nature are normal for an application of this size, and were reported to and approved by the council’s executive board in December 2016.

"The council has rightly sought the advice of experts – including environmental experts, transport experts and ecologists – on fundamental elements of the application, including to understand the flood risk and environmental impact, to model traffic and congestion, to design the scheme itself, and to propose ways to mitigate any negative impact on wildlife and flooding."