BUSINESSES in Headington are celebrating news the Old High Street car park has been saved from development.

The car park has been removed from a list of sites put forward for future housing or student accommodation schemes.

Businesses and residents had been furious about the plans, saying they would have driven businesses to the wall because of the loss of car parking.

Councillors have now confirmed the idea has been axed.

Oxford City Council’s deputy leader, Ed Turner, said: “We will not be allocating Headington car park as a development site.

“There is a whole bundle of reasons around the nature of the site and the fact it would not be practical. It would be a very difficult site to develop.

“But we also received strong representations about it from the local community.”

Stella Welford, of Friends of Old Headington, said the scheme had always been a “mad idea”.

She said: “I am delighted. We were extremely worried, not only because of its impact on the conservation area, but also the effect it would have had on businesses.

“It would have meant the closure of the smaller shops, like Brambles, Headington Homewares and Oxford Design.

Headington Action chairman Patrick Coulter said: “There was a lot of concern among the business community that the future of Headington as a local shopping centre would suffer if we had not been left with reasonable car parking.

“Although it is not a big car park, out-of-town shops are struggling to keep going in the current economic climate, and they need all the help they can get. The timing was just wrong.”

Elaine Bellenger, of the Monaco fashion shop, said: “It is brilliant news. It would have had a huge impact on us and I am really pleased this has been dropped.”

The city council had faced strong opposition to the proposal, with thousands of people signing a petition against listing the site for future development.

Plans to build student flats on St Clement’s car park in East Oxford were rejected by councillors in September.

Mr Turner said: “In a place like Oxford, which has a quite tightly constrained urban area, there are very few easily available development sites left.

“You cannot just give up every time you have an objection, because there is a real need for housing in Oxford.

“At the same time, we do not want to damage the economy or existing green spaces.”

Lib Dem councillor David Rundle said: “There has been a petition with over 3,000 signatures and all the arguments were against it because it would have destroyed the district centre.

“The only people who did not see that were Labour. I wish they could have seen it earlier.”

Damion Farah, of Jacobs and Field delicatessen in Old High Street, said of the decision: “It is excellent news.

“Building on the car park would have mainly affected Waitrose, as people need their vehicle to carry their shopping away.

“If Waitrose had moved away, it would have been detrimental to everyone.”