Controversial plans for 540 new homes near Oxford have been refused by a council.

Merton College, which wants to develop an area of land the size of 82 football pitches near Yarnton, failed to get its application past Cherwell District Council.

The authority’s planning committee voted against the plans yesterday (Thursday).

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There was said to be “a number of technical issues” with the proposed development, and fears were also raised during the meeting about the potential impact it would have on flooding.

Oxford Mail:

But it is not the end of the road for the Oxford University college.

Months before yesterday’s decision, the college appealed to the Government on the basis of non-determination.

It means a final decision on the contentious housing plan will not be made until after an eight-day inquiry starting on February 13.

As part of this process, the council’s position will be considered.

Although she called the application “currently unacceptable”, council planning officer Linda Griffiths was confident the issues “could and can be overcome". 

One of the issues she raised in her report, which recommended the plans were refused, included the lack of informal parkland to go with the homes.

Flooding was not one of the issues, but it has been a concern that villagers have raised repeatedly over the last few years.

Speaking at the meeting, David Thornhill from Yarnton Flood Defence Group said flooding in Yarnton was “already a regular occurrence” because the village sits on low-lying land near the Thames floodplain.

Oxford Mail: Flooding in Yarnton

Heavy rainfall in 2021 left many of Yarnton’s roads submerged, with vehicles unable to pass and villagers wading through the water in wellies.

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Mr Thornhill claimed there was evidence to show the proposed development would “make existing flooding increase.”

However, Robert Davies, an agent speaking on behalf of Merton, said: “The development itself will improve, not worsen, the current (flooding) situation.”

He added: “The concerns of residents in the village regarding previous flood or drainage events within Yarnton are quite rightly heard…

“We have sought to assist throughout this process, heaving liaised with the council, the flood defence group and Thames Water…

“The proposed development has the ability to improve the position through assisting with alleviating existing capacity issues with the foul network.”

A college spokesman said: “Whilst the council has set out five reasons for refusal, it also states that they are all capable of resolution.

“Through an evidence-led process the independent inspector will review the proposals and make a final decision.

"Our focus is now on continuing discussions with the council as well as preparing for the appeal proceedings.”