MORE than 1,500 people have now called on Oxford City Council to abandon its plans to expand Seacourt Park and Ride.

Oxfordshire Badger Group this week presented its final petition to council leader Bob Price, with a decision on the proposal expected in the coming weeks.

The wildlife group has again accused the council of breaching national planning policy – and its own core strategy – by building on the green belt and flood plain.

It also said expanding the park and ride car park onto a neighbouring green field visited by badgers would threaten the local population.

Badger group chairman Julia Hammett said: "The council has a duty to preserve Oxford's green belt for posterity yet seems determined to destroy it.

"The green belt land that the extension will destroy is part of a network of fields, water meadow and scrub where badgers and other wildlife thrive.

"It’s rich in insects and is a feeding and commuting zone for bats and birds.

"Once it’s gone, this precious mosaic of habitats will be lost forever, all to provide a short-term fix rather than providing a coherent, long-term plan to deal with transport issues in Oxford."

The campaign has now backed by Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust.

He said: "The Oxfordshire Badger Group is absolutely right to oppose plans to extend the Seacourt Park and Ride scheme, which will put an increasing number of badgers under threat in Oxford.

"Oxford is a city with an abundance of urban wildlife which is to be treasured, however it is also seeing a huge increase in housing that is forcing badgers from their setts, resulting in many dying on roads across the city."

Oxford City Council first announced its £4m plan to double the size of Seacourt car park with a 650-space expansion in January 2015.

The council has faced opposition from flood groups, neighbours and wildlife campaigners, but repeatedly said it needs to expand the park and ride after the new Westgate Centre opens this month to encourage thousands of extra visitors to get the bus into town rather than driving into the centre of Oxford.

The council's environmental consultants have carried out surveys which found there were no active badger setts on the land.

However the badger group insists there are badgers in the area which would be stopped from using the field as they navigate around west Oxford.

The council's planning committee did book an extraordinary meeting on October 31 to decide on the plans, but after new documents about flood risk were added to the planning application that meeting has been postponed again.

The council's board member for planning said Alex Hollingsworth said: "Whether or not this development should proceed is a matter for the relevant planning committee, which will weigh up the advantages and impacts of the proposal against relevant national and local planning policies, and come to a view."