HOUSING campaigners battling an Oxford University college have revealed a dramatic new weapon which involves kidnap, secret tunnels and the art of theatre.

Nick Smith from Fyfield has written an 'Alan Ayckbourn-style' play, which he is hoping to stage, in which members of his real-life campaign group kidnap a St John's College professor to derail the 700-home development they are fighting.

Mr Smith has said he believes such a dramatic and illegal course would be the only way to stop St John's and major landowners like it from steamrollering village opinions with massive housing plans.

He and his fellow campaigners in the Fyfield Land Action Group (FLAG) are hoping to get the risqué drama staged to gain national attention and highlight what they see as iniquities in the planning system.

The 60-year-old Oxford graduate said: "The author is most definitely not advocating kidnap or anything of this kind, but I am serious that, because of the changes the Cameron government made, it has become really difficult for communities to oppose this kind of development.

"By following a very dull, legitimate course of campaigning you are almost doomed to fail and that's a situation which I think the developers have exploited.

"This is my way of sticking two fingers up to it and if we manage to get it staged I think it will help."

The development Mr Smith and his neighbours are fighting would see 700 homes built over 34 hectares from the A420 at Fyfield south to the A415 at Kingston Bagpuize.

The college, which is expected to make £85m from the deal, said it 'offered the land to help meet Oxfordshire's housing needs'.

It has also said the plans would be subject to a full consultation process through the council, when the question of local impact would be considered.

FLAG members say the estate would be an overdevelopment of their rural area, but one of their chief concerns is the effect it would have on the A420 – already one of Oxfordshire's most dangerous roads.

Fyfield and Tubney Parish Council said it had been 'inundated by expressions of objection' which it 'wholly and unanimously supported'.

Chairman Julian Mellor said Mr Smith's play was a 'great idea', and the picture it painted of a David-and-Goliath struggle was one villagers across the county would recognise.

He said: "We are all volunteers giving up our free time and we are up against very, very rich companies.

"St John's have armies of consultants to support them, but I think we have a very strong case.

"This is Nick's forté, this is his way of expressing what he thinks, and I think it's great."

FLAG's objections include an 'unsound evaluation of traffic impacts', the fact Fyfield would become 'a commuter dormitory', and crucially 'a lack of engagement' by St John's and its partners with the local community.

Mr Smith said one of the main points of his play was that villagers felt they were not being listened to, and developers did not have to listen.

He said: "I guess the moral of the play is that you can do all sorts of ordinary things in protest to what's happening but there hasn't been an awful lot of publicity.

"On the other hand if you think of something really crazy like kidnapping a professor from St John's, what would happen?

"It would be a national story and St John's would cave in because they don't want the publicity.

"I don't suppose we will succeed in stopping it and I don't have any plans to kidnap a don, but I think that would be the only way to stop it."

Campaign co-ordinator John Bradley said he thought the play was 'splendid'.

He added: "Nick is absolutely right in the sense we are really up against it: at the end of the day money talks and St John's stand to make in excess of £85m from this.

"It is largely a bit of fun, but it will draw attention to the fact there is a campaign going on. The play is well worth the risk."

Head of St John's, Andrew Parker, said in a statement: "The college is always supportive of free thinking and free speech within the law. Neither does the college seek to engage in artistic or political censorship."

The college and its partners are expected to submit an outline planning application to Vale of White Horse District Council in the coming months.