ARCHAEOLOGICAL groundworks are taking place at a site north east of Oxford which could become thousands of homes.

The Bayswater development could see as many as 3,250 homes built on farmland outside of the Oxford Ring Road on land west of the 885-home Barton Park estate.

Excavators have been spotted carrying out groundworks on fields which are earmarked for the new homes, with large archaeological survey trenches having been dug in recent weeks.

Local campaign group the Friends of Bayswater Brook believe the survey work is being done in the run up to a formal planning application.

A spokesman for the group said: “For the last six weeks or so trenches 30m long and 1.5 m wide have been appearing across the meadows and fields north of Bayswater Brook, below Elsfield in the west to around Barton and the Oxford Crematorium in the east.

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“This development has alarmed the many walkers and dog-walkers, from Barton, Sandhills, and beyond, who cherish this green belt landscape as a vital amenity in normal times and, even more now, in these abnormal times.”

The farmland is owned by Christ Church College, and the scheme for the new homes is being developed alongside Dorchester Residential Management and planning consultancy the Pegasus Group.

Oxford Mail:

Land on Oxford Northern By-pass where Christ Church college hopes to build 750 homes. Site to the west of the Barton Park estate. Picture: Google Maps

On the webpage the developers have set out three options for how many homes could be built on the land.

The first proposal is to build 750 to 925 homes.

The second is to build 1,500 to 1850 houses.

And proposal number three is to combine the Bayswater land with Wick Farm, next door, to build 2,900 to 3,250 houses with community facilities like a local community centre, shops, a park or parks and a cemetery.

The Pegasus Group submitted a planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council in 2018 for an opinion scoping exercise about the site.

At the time a host of environmental, historical and social challenges were highlighted for the college.

The development would be in the green belt land, and whether this will be considered acceptable is currently up in the air due to ongoing uncertainties over SODC's local plan.

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The site is located within the ‘Impact Risk Zone’ of two Sites of Special Scientific Interest at Sidling’s Copse and College Pond, and New Marston Meadows.

A Roman villa recorded by an archaeological dig in 1849 is also thought to be located in the vicinity of the north-eastern part of the site.

The scoping exercise also said the massive estate might spoil the views of the Dreaming Spires of Oxford.

One of the view cones – a view towards the city that must be protected – is at Elsfield just north of the site.