A DETERMINED band of residents have won their two-year fight to prevent 68 homes being built in their village.

Housebuilder CALA Homes was seeking to develop a site in Stonesfield, near Witney, but an appeal has been dismissed after the application was refused last year.

The decision was celebrated by Sustainable Stonesfield (SUSTO), a group formed by residents to campaign against unpopular housing applications.

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The group argued CALA's chosen site - land north of Woodstock Road - would damage the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), setting a 'dangerous' precedent for the rest of the area.

Chairman, Richard Morris, said: “We are in an AONB, which should mean no major developments unless there are exceptional circumstances – and we showed there were none.

"We need to protect our countryside from being ruined by greedy developers. Other communities threatened with inappropriate development should not give up. They should fight it.”

Villagers formed SUSTO in early 2017, when a 'wave' of applications hit Stonesfield after West Oxfordshire District Council's draft local plan was rejected.

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Long term resident and campaigner, Caroline Friend, said: "Developers were having a field day, as there was no local plan to say if their sites would be successful."

CALA submitted an application in May 2017, when the site was part of the draft local plan, but it was removed from the revised plan and the application refused last May.

When CALA appealed last August, SUSTO urged residents to write to the council with their objections, prompting dozens of complaints regarding the development's landscape, design and layout.

One month later, the district adopted its local plan, which sets out where to build 15,950 houses in West Oxfordshire up to 2031.

Villagers were backed by Stonesfield Parish Council and the Cotswolds Conservation Board (CCB) at appeal hearings in April and May.

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John Mills, the CCB's planning and landscape officer, spoke at the hearings and was 'delighted' when the appeal was lost on June 21.

He said: "This reinforces the highest status of protection that national policy gives to conserving and enhancing the landscape and scenic beauty of the Cotswolds AONB."

Jeff Haine, West Oxfordshire District Council's cabinet member for strategic planning, added: “Not enough evidence of local housing need was provided by the developer to justify building on previously undeveloped land.

"Once again the decision illustrates the benefit of having a local plan, with clearly defined guidelines for development over the coming years.”

A CALA spokesperson said the developer was 'disappointed' and would review its options for the site.