VILLAGERS have said they are 'not giving up the fight' to save their historic railway bridge after Network Rail reveal it would appeal against a decision to stop it being demolished.

In a major success for Steventon campaigners, Vale of White Horse District Council's planning committee on Wednesday voted against a recommendation from officers to approve the rail company's plan, which would cause a 10-month road closure and cut off a major route into the village.

Network Rail, which said it was 'disappointed' in the outcome, yesterday confirmed it is looking to submit an appeal 'which will be initiated in September'.

It maintains that knocking down the 181-year-old Brunel structure is the only way to electrify the line.

Responding to the announcement, Steventon Parish Council chairman Chris Wilding, who has campaigned against the demolition for four years, said: "We will continue to gather the evidence to prove our claim that knocking the bridge down is not necessary.

"We are not giving up the fight yet and the district council decision was a boost."

He added relations between the rail company and residents had been poor, criticising a lack of communication.

Mr Wilding said: "I think Network Rail have lost sight of what rail users actually want – trains that arrive consistently on time rather than a couple of minutes shaved off a journey."

Steventon resident Robert Green, who also campaigned against the demolition, added: "We've won the battle but not the war yet."

He called the decision by district councillors 'logical' adding: “It’s been a long road – four years working with Historic England and as the years went past it was clear the technology was all moving in our favour.”

Tweeting after the planning meeting, district councillor and former council leader Matthew Barber, who represents Steventon and spoke against the application, said refusal was not a move against electrification, adding: "Network Rail have not proved the supposed national benefit of demolishing this particular bridge. Common sense prevails."

However former councillor Stewart Lilly – who chaired negotiations over the proposed demolition before resigning earlier this year – questioned whether the district council was guilty of 'planning satire' by refusing the application.

In a letter to the Herald following Wednesday's meeting he wrote: "Paradoxically our local planning committee do appear very good at granting more residential development all around the Vale of White Horse, (several thousands of homes) but it's when a proposal to improve infrastructure to assist peoples journeys by road and rail – is this just planning satire?"

Mr Lilly, a county councillor for the area from 2009 until last May, had been appointed as an independent mediator between those opposed to the scheme, including Steventon Parish Council, and Network Rail since shortly after the official application was submitted by the rail company in April last year.

He stepped down in May after telling the Herald he believed the bridge should be knocked down.

Mr Lilly said: "The application was to de-list the bridges historic status and see it replaced with a new stronger and safer structure, more able to cope with the significant increase in local highway and national railway traffic, created by all the new development we are all witnessing."

He added the presentation by Network Rail representatives in defence of the scheme was 'poor' and this had also contributed to the eventual outcome of the 'emotive' topic.

The bridge’s future was originally due to be decided at a planning committee meeting in May, but councillors wanted further information on alternatives and opted to defer.