PROTESTERS took a ‘last stand’ to oppose the controversial Seacourt Park and Ride development last night, with work set to begin as early as Wednesday.

The £3.4 million project, which will create nearly 700 parking spaces, is set to take around nine months to complete.

Yesterday’s protest could represent the final act of opposition before building begins, in what is a long-running and bitterly fought battle against the plans.

About 20 demonstrators, including a person dressed in a badger outfit, began protesting at the site from around 5pm yesterday and stayed until at least 6pm.

A ‘wake’ for future badger deaths was also held, as the Oxfordshire Badger Group claimed that nearby habitat for the animals would be severely disrupted by the project.

Joining the protest were representatives from Oxford Flood Alliance and local residents as well as the group of badger conservationists.

They highlighted a wide-range of issues including the risk of flooding at the site, what they see as a waste of public money, additional traffic and the potential for accidents.

They also have concerns over an increase in air pollution and the effect the expansion will have on wildlife.

Liz Sawyer, a local resident, slated the council as ‘unfit to lead Oxford into the 21st Century’ because they have ‘not come up with a better solution in 20 years, and won’t stick to their own Local Plan.’

Highlighting fears about flooding, she said “They don’t even know how the development will affect groundwater movements in the area.

“The council, by starting clearance work when there are still many active nesting birds in the area, will be committing wanton destruction of hedgerows and vegetation. Their environmental surveys are out of date, and they have avoided carrying out new ones – because it would tell them what they do not want to hear.’

Julia Hammett, from the Oxfordshire Badger Group, added: “The extension to the Seacourt Park-and-Ride has been controversial to say the least.

"Many Oxford groups oppose building it on Green Belt and Flood Plain: Oxford Preservation Trust, CPRE, Oxford County Council, Oxford Flood Alliance, the Oxford Green Belt network, local MPs and residents from all over Oxford.

“1,700 people signed a petition objecting to building on this unspoilt, species rich flood plain.”

Councillor Alex Hollingsworth, a City Council Board Member for Planning and Transport, said: “The current Seacourt Park-and-Ride is filling up on most days and demand is predicted to rise further, so it makes sense to expand this site to cater for extra visitors.

“The extension to the car park will provide much-needed extra parking spaces, improved cycle parking, lighting, CCTV and landscaping.

“And it will help to prevent traffic congestion levels rising on the Botley Road and into the city centre.

“The city council always fully considers the impact of developments on wildlife and did so before approving this expansion.”