CAMPAIGNERS are 'devastated' by the Planning Inspector's decision to approve an appeal which will see a giant water park resort built near Bicester.

The highly controversial project put forward by American company Great Wolf Resorts (GWR) back in November 2019 was refused by Cherwell District Council in March 2020.

Bicester water park resort: A round-up of the story so far

But after a public inquiry, which saw the resort's plans heavily scrutinised by experts, planning inspector George Baird gave it the green light on Tuesday.

A date as to when construction will start is yet to be confirmed, but the 45-acre resort - which will be home to a 498-room hotel, indoor water park, restaurant, nature trail, adventure park and conference facilities - will be built in Chesterton.

Campaigners are 'mystified' by the inspector's decision and feel local people have been ignored.

ALSO READ: Chesterton residents say Great Wolf Lodge will 'decimate' village

Caroline Twiddy chairman of Stop the Wolf campaign said: "We are extremely disappointed in this result. This vast complex will be one of the largest hotels outside London yet it will be situated on the edge of a village with only 800 inhabitants. We simply do not have the infrastructure to support it.

"We are genuinely mystified by Mr Baird's decision, particularly his claims that families are increasingly choosing to dispense with using the private car - this is not reflected in most families’ experience of taking children on holiday, and is quite frankly, a bizarre claim.

"So many people far and wide have rallied against this hugely inappropriate development, the villages didn't want it, the councils didn't want it - we have made our feelings very clear and they have been ignored. This is devastating news for many, many people."

Stop the Wolf had raised nearly £80,000 to fund legal representation and other consultants at the appeal hearing. It also set up a petition against GWR which gained more than 2,000 signatures.

Parishes Against Wolf (PAW) - an alliance of 36 local parish councils - was also set up to fight against the plans.

But their efforts did not give them the result they hoped for.

Philip Clarke chairman of Chesterton Parish Council said: "I am appalled by the outcome of this inquiry which fails to give any substance to those locally who have opposed it so professionally. It is a decision that will affect the local road network and more importantly the lives of so many residents in so many villages who know, first-hand, what the impact will be.

"The lack of support from Oxfordshire County Council comes through very clearly especially the assumption that there will be no cumulative impact of extra vehicles on the road network. You are left with the view that local residents are powerless to protect the environment locally and this is a usurpation of local democracy."

Cherwell District Council said it was also disappointed in the decision and appreciates that it will be of 'great concern' to many residents. A statement continued: "We will scrutinise this closely and seek legal advice on the robustness of the decision.”

North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis, who previously expressed her opposition to the resort and backed the Stop the Wolf campaign, says the 'fight is not over'.

She said: "I have always felt that the plans are completely inappropriate for Chesterton. The Parishes Against Wolf have been tireless campaigners against the plans. I know that they will share my disappointment at today's decision.

"We will all need to consider our options carefully before we agree on next steps. The fight is not over."

Conservative Cherwell District Councillor for Bicester North and Caversfield Nicholas Mawer said he had 'mixed views' about the resort but said people should focus on the positives.

He said: "My main concern is that an appointed officer can overrule a democratically elected body whose decision was made unanimously. Since the decision has now been made, it would be much more productive to try actively to mitigate the negatives and welcome and embrace the positives."

The development represents a £200 million investment into the local community – creating 1,000 jobs during construction and approximately 600 jobs to operate the resort.

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A spokesperson for GWR said: “We are looking forward to becoming part of the local community and are committed to working with the local residents and businesses to help ensure this resort brings economic, recreational and community benefits to Chesterton and the wider Bicester area."

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