CAMPAIGNERS have claimed victory in a 27-year battle after the Government rejected controversial plans for a £20.5m relief road in Witney.

The Department for Transport has refused a compulsory purchase order for the land Oxfordshire County Council needed to build the Cogges Link Road.

Instead, Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening agreed with the inquiry inspector that a four-way junction on the A40 at Shores Green was a better option.

The decision follows a lengthy public inquiry that ended in November.

The council spent £1.4m on the public hearings and will now have to pay the inquiry costs of its opponents.

Last night council leader Ian Hudpeth said the news was “bitterly disappointing”.

He said: “There has been lots of legal debate in recent times and that has to a large degree obscured what the council’s aim has always been in proposing this road, to bring relief to the traffic issues in the town of Witney.”

But in a letter to the council, the DfT said the authority had not made “a sufficiently compelling case” for the link road and the Shores Green option had “clear advantages”.

The council has not yet made a decision on whether it will proceed with that cheaper alternative but Mr Hudspeth said: “Those (traffic) problems will not go away and it is the council’s duty to work on ways of dealing with them.

“We must now review our options and work hard with all stakeholders to come up with new ways forward to tackle the central issue of traffic through the centre of Witney.”

Opponent James Mawle, who owns land needed for the link road scheme, said: “There is no real way back for the council now.

“This is a complete and total vindication after almost 20 years of work by a whole range of people who have all constantly opposed the road.

The Secretary of State said the council should pay the Mawle Trust’s costs for the inquiry which Mr Mawle said could be about £700,000.

He added: “They should never have put the people of Witney through this.

“Millions of pounds have been wasted.

“They have spent more money on legal and professional fees then it would have cost to build Shores Green.”

And he said last night that the Mawle Trust would never sell the land to the council.

He said: “We will never sell, at any price, for the Cogges Link Road.”

Campaigner Alex Kinchesh, of Cogges, in Witney, said: “The report was spot on and the Secretary of State has done right thing. Thank goodness for common sense.”

But she added: “The fact that it went this far without listening to the public is shocking and we will be looking for answers.”

David Condon, chairman of Witney Campaign to Protect Rural England and the anti Cogges Link Road group Witney First said: “This has been one hell of a battle against the county council and quite correctly they have lost.

“This is a crushing defeat for them.”

Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron backed the controversial scheme in 2010.