UNEASE is growing at what is seen as the destruction of precious green spaces in and around Oxford, threatened with massive housing developments.

Pockets of land in the city are being earmarked for development while nearby countryside will be lost to homes and offices.

A petition to stop a housing development on meadow land at Iffley Village has received more than 55,000 signatures.

Read here: Our view - Oxford needs affordable homes AND green spaces

Oxford City Council, as part of its 2036 Local Plan, is hoping to develop at least 29 houses on the site between Meadow Lane and Church Way.

Campaigners have said they understand the need for more affordable housing in the city but have urged the council to consider brownfield sites over the ‘limited’ green spaces left.

Last week, campaigners from the Cherwell Development Watch Alliance (ODWA) were left disappointed after losing their fight at the High Court Case against Cherwell District Council’s blueprint for homes on Green Belt Land.

Its Local Plan Partial Review, which was set in 2015, proposes to build 4,400 houses on the Green Belt around Begbroke, Kidlington, and Yarnton, with the intention of meeting Oxford`s housing needs.

Plans are also moving forward for the new Oxford North development, which would see 480 homes – with at least 35 per cent ‘affordable’ – being built on a green field site.

The development, which would cover fields between the A40, A34 and A44 north of the Wolvercote Roundabout, would also see a new ‘science district’ and offices built – which the landowner, St John’s College, and its development partner, Thomas White Oxford, say will create over 4,500 jobs.

Evelyn Sanderson, who chairs campaign group Friends of the Fields of Iffley, accused Oxford City Council of ‘green washing’ through schemes such as the urban garden in the city’s Broad Street,which has been dubbed Broad Meadow.

She said: “Over the summer, shoppers in Broad Street can enjoy Broad Meadow, but that is a fake. It is only a fast-food meadow for rapid consumption, and in September it will be gone.”

The campaigners argue that, by building the development on this land, the nature corridor and the designated cycle quiet route would be destroyed.

Fellow campaigner Rachel Falconer, who lives in Meadow Lane, had similar concerns and said: “They have spent a lot of money to buy these meadows, and, before they get planning permission, we want them to recognise that these fields are ecological resources.

“We need to conserve and enhance their ecological assets. We are in the context of almost all of the wildflower meadows in the UK having been obliterated.”

Read here: 'Oxford needs homes': council defends development plans after 55,000 sign petition in opposition

Campaigners stress the Iffley Village development reflects wider issues with the city council’s 2036 Local Plan.

Activist Lucy Grabe Watson said: “Oxford City Council’s Local Plan urgently needs to be reviewed, because it does not take into account the value of smaller green spaces which need to be protected because they give people mental health benefits and add value to people’s lives.

“The council needs to think about the empty buildings it has in the city centre and the other empty businesses, which could be repurposed for housing.

“They are not ready for what is coming with the climate towards the end of this century, or even earlier, and they urgently need to change that.”

Miss Watson also called on the council to levy second home owners with higher taxes, or ban them completely.

Kevin Bezant, of Kidlington, echoed similar concerns over loss of the green belt, particularly the High Courts decision last week.

He said: “Last week, a coalition of local Green Belt campaign groups – the Cherwell Development Watch Alliance – lost their challenge in the High Court to stop Cherwell District Council’s plan to build 4,400 houses on 250 hectares of Green Belt to the north of the city.

“But why was this expensive and time-consuming action necessary when this Government is committed to ‘protect and enhance’ the Green Belt?

“Clearly, this Government is not committed to their Green Belt policy and Cherwell now know they can act with impunity regarding the Green Belt.

“With the forthcoming Oxfordshire Plan 2050, this does not bode well for the people of Kidlington, Gosford, Water Eaton, Yarnton, and Begbroke and their future generations.”

Despite the disappointing news, campaigners against the Cherwell development thanked all the individuals and organisation who had stood by their cause since 2015.

Suzanne McIvor, chair of CDWA, said: “Throughout, we have been encouraged by knowing that we overwhelmingly represented local opinion.

“We thank all the organisations and individuals who supported us and generously provided funds to meet the substantial costs.

“It was important to take a stand for local voices and we remain proud of what we have done”

Further afield, in the Vale of White Horse, the district council’s plan to build 4,524 homes has been given the green light – despite continual concerns about lack of healthcare, school places and safe travel access.

The Valley Park development, which was unanimously approved two weeks ago, will be built on land between Great Western Park in Didcot and Harwell, to form part of the Didcot Garden Town plan.

Oxford city councillor Alex Hollingsworth, cabinet member for planning and housing delivery, stressed the need for new housing, claiming that key workers such as nurses and teachers were being pushed out of the city by high property prices.

There are more than 2,850 families on the city council waiting list. It hopes to tackle that by building 2,245 homes in the city over the next 10 years. They will be built by its homebuilding subsidiary, Oxford City Housing Ltd.

In a statement, Cherwell District Council regarding the High Court decisionsaid: “The court’s decision confirms the Planning Inspectorate’s finding when the Plan was examined; that it is legally sound.

"The Plan continues to have full weight in any planning decisions.”