THE MOST controversial planning application in Oxford for years has tonight been approved by the city council.

Members of public shouted 'shame' and 'you should resign' as Oxford City Council's West Area Planning Committee narrowly voted in favour of expanding Seacourt Park and Ride on Botley Road.

With eight members sitting on the committee at Oxford Town Hall on Tuesday night, four voted to reject the plan and four voted to approve it, but chairman Louise Upton used her casting vote to get the plan through.

Liz Sawyer of Oxford Flood Alliance, who spoke voiciferously against the proposal at the meeting, said afterwards the decision was 'outrageous'.

She told the Oxford Mail: "I will be very interested to see what reasons in planing terms are going to be given for justifying this decision."

Committee member councillor Colin Cook, who voted to reject the plan, said after the vote that the wrong decision had been made.

Oxford Mail:

He described council officers' decision to try to expand Seacourt in a way that was rejected by central government in 1999 was like 'a dog going back to its vomit'.

The other councillors who voted to throw the plan out were Lord Mayor of Oxford Jean Fooks, Liz Wade and Dan Iley-Williamson.

Those in favour were Louise Upton, Marie Tidball, Susan Brown and Jamila Begum Azad.

Julia Hammett of Oxfordshire Badger Group said after tonight's decision: "It's a mockery of democracy and it is going to make the council look very foolish indeed."

Tonight's vote comes after more than a year of heated campaigning by both sides.

Oxford City Council, which runs the park and ride and put forward the plan, said expanding the park and ride onto a green field next door was essential in order to cope with ever-increasing numbers of cars coming into the city.

Oxford Mail:

The current Seacourt Park and Ride site in orange; the field the city council wants to expand into in yellow, and a field owned by the Co-op supermarket in red which others think the car park should expand into.

The council, which also owns the field pegged for the 685-space expansion, cited the new Westgate Centre as one of the major causes of the need for expansion.

However Lord Mayor Jean Fooks tonight ridiculed that argument put forward byt the officers, saying there were hundreds of spaces free at other park and rides across the city.

She also cited the fact that Oxfordshire County Council has said it can build a major new park and ride site at Eynsham by 2020.

Colin Cook, meanwhile, said the sense of urgency which council officers had tried to create around the expansion plan, was false, and that the council could just as well use the decking it has recently be using at a car park on Oxpens Road at Seacourt to make it a double-deck car park.

All the councillors who voted against the plan said it breached the government's National Planning Policy Framework guidelines on building in the floodplain and building on the green belt because, they agreed, expanding the car park did not meet the 'exceptional circumstances' requirement.

In making her casting vote, Louise Upton told her fellow committee members: "I do wish there was a better site for this but I don't think there is.

"This improved park and ride is still part of our planning policy."

She added: "If we did refuse it tonight, the applicant [the city council officers] could appeal against the decision and would almost certainly win."

Tonight's decision is now subject not only to a call-in by other councillors to the planning review committee, but also a final approval by the secretary of state, as was a similar plan put forward in 1997.