VILLAGERS who fear the expansion of a historic manor house's facilities will 'decimate' their area have launched a last-ditch effort to alter the changes.

Kelmscott Manor will get a new education centre, car park upgrades and general repairs in a project due to start this month, with the attraction hoping to receive 40,000 visitors a year as a result.

But some villagers say the work will increase traffic, stop emergency services from reaching Kelmscott and damage the environment.

One resident, Julia Stobie, has now started a petition urging the manor's owner, the Society of Antiquaries, and the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) - which funded the scheme with a £4.3m grant - to reconsider.

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Villagers have suggested changing the plans to minimise the impact on Kelmscott, but Ms Stobie says they are being ignored.

She said: “What we’ve proposed has minimal impact on the countryside, but they want to decimate trees and hedgerows that are hundreds of years old and will be an eyesore on an exquisite little hamlet.

“The Society's attitude has caused significant resentment. They’ve ignored us at every avenue.”

The manor was the retreat of influential designer William Morris from 1871 to 1896 and is a popular attraction in the tiny West Oxfordshire village.

It currently opens three days a week from April to October, but the society hopes the expansion means it can add one more day per week.

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Residents want the car park entrance moved to lessen the impact on them.

The petition adds: "Changes to accommodating these visitor numbers means totally trashing existing wildlife habitat and countryside in and around Kelmscott - let alone the village being overrun by visitors.

"Kelmscott is not Disneyland!"

The car park upgrades are due to begin this month, with work on the education centre starting next spring, while it is all set to end in June 2021.

A spokesperson for the Society said the project would 'remove all cars and coaches from the village' and improve access, drainage and capacity.

She added: “The Society strives to support the village and each year the manor makes a donation to the village hall's upkeep. The size of the donation is determined by the number of visitors we receive.

“Over the last four years we have donated over £8,000 and we look forward to increasing our support to the village hall and other village causes as our visitor numbers increase."

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An HLF spokesperson said the education centre would provide 'community benefits, adding: “We understand the sensitivity around the extension of the existing car park, and in doing this work, the Kelmscott Manor project has taken measures to carefully manage and reduce the potential impact of visitor traffic through the village.”