Planned development for a "deprived" city ward has been criticised by an Oxford-based badger organisation which has used the term "eco vandalism" to describe similar council projects.

The Oxon badger group (OBG) is continuing its efforts to prevent "damage to the natural environment and wildlife" which includes the "shocking" loss of biodiversity in "ecologically rich land". 

Chairwoman and trustee of the group, Julia Hammett, said that development in Knights Road of 84 homes in Blackbird Leys would "encroach" on the "ecologically rich Spindleberry Nature Reserve and Northfield Brook".

She said this would mean "the shocking loss of biodiversity and the eviction of protected species in the midst of a nature crisis".

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She continued: "OBG was first contacted by local residents dismayed at the prospect of losing their much used open space and playing field and the risk to the Spindleberry Nature Reserve from this development.

Oxford Mail: An Oxford badger.An Oxford badger.

"It means 84 homes encroaching on the ecologically rich Spindleberry Nature Reserve and Northfield Brook, the shocking 26 per cent loss of biodiversity and the eviction of protected species in the midst of a nature crisis."

The £100m Blackbird Leys project on council-owned land will result in the construction of around 84 new homes between Knights Road and the Kassam Stadium as well as 210 new homes in the district centre.

City council cabinet member for housing, Linda Smith, has described the development as "really exciting" and said the Knights Road site would provide new homes on a "rather unloved grassy area".

But Ms Hammett claimed: "The council's own scrutiny community highlighted in March 2020 that there was no mention of the ecological impact of the development which was contrary to the council's and national planning policies.

Oxford Mail: Planned development at Knights Road.Planned development at Knights Road. (Image: Oxford City Council)

"Alarmingly at the planning meeting at which it was approved in August 2023, there was little discussion of the housing development and impact on the rich ecology of the area as it was part of a hybrid application.

"The main focus of discussion was on the much needed redevelopment of the Blackbird Leys District Centre."

The OBG has expressed continued opposition to council plans to build on Iffley green fields which are home to a rare white badger called Luna.

Ms Hammett said: "To build on these species rich fields would be nothing short of eco vandalism.

"Oxford City Council's legacy will be of destruction of Oxford's green setting and irreparable damage to the natural environment and wildlife."

An Oxford City Council spokesman said: "Protecting trees, green spaces and ecological sites is an important part of the Local Plan.

Oxford Mail: Previous protest by the Oxford badger group.Previous protest by the Oxford badger group. (Image: OBG)

"It recognises the benefit these bring to the health and wellbeing of residents, biodiversity and the wider environment.

"The Local Plan protects green space across the city and includes strict criteria when proposed development would impact these spaces."

He added: "Oxford needs homes.

"Oxford is among the least affordable places to live in the UK.

"Even before the cost-of-living crisis, unaffordable housing meant more than a quarter of Oxford’s children lived below the poverty line.

"Bad housing has a devastating impact on children’s health and wellbeing and casts a long shadow over their future life chances."