Oxford-based Greystoke revealed plans to build the Waterstock Science and Innovation Park on more than 100 acres of Oxfordshire’s Green Belt land (up to 120,000 square metres), with the plans including a multi-storey car park, research buildings, Forest School and a creche.
The site, just off the M40 and A40, is currently used by Waterstock Golf Club and its members fear the development will carve up “rich and varied wildlife” as well as depriving golfers of a club which has “improved their well-being”.
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Despite the deadline of September 10 for representations to the application looming closer, more than 50 householders of Waterstock, Waterperry, Tiddington, Great Milton and Ickford villages have already expressed their opposition, labelling the plans as “catastrophic”.
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Henry Manisty, who lives close to the proposed site, said: “This large piece of Green Belt is special because of its use for recreation and its location within a priority Conservation Target Area, with rich and varied wildlife.”
Mr Manisty said the land should not become “urbanised with vast tower blocks, multi-story car parking and all the pollution that will go with it”.
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Waterstock Golf Club is a par 72 course and its website describes the club as “set in some of Oxfordshire’s most beautiful and peaceful countryside”.
Nick Edmondson, a Waterstock householder and golf club member, said: “With the club thriving as it is, it would be a real shame if it were to be lost.”
Mr Edmondson said membership numbers have tripled over the last few years and stood at around 300 members.
He highlighted the plans would represent a risk to more than 10,000 trees and a “fantastic array of wild orchards”.
Dr John Wilkinson, a Waterstock villager, said the scale of the buildings proposed would be similar to “having both the John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals next door to us”.
He predicted that any tree screening would take at least 30 years to cover even the smallest buildings proposed.
In addition to golf, the vast area of land is used by the Waterstock Dressage and Riding School with horse riders frequently travelling down the bridleway which runs along the site’s eastern boundary.
Arabella Whelan, the riding school’s proprietor, said the development would “cause a dangerous amount of traffic” through Waterstock and would put young riders at risk.
She said Waterstock lane was used several times on a daily basis, as it led to fields where 20 riding ponies and horses were kept.
Ms Whelan said the development would “blight” the landscape and make the only local bridleway “too dangerous to reach”.
Construction costs are estimated to be around £340 million over the four years it will take to build, and the development is likely to create 2,300 to 2,700 full-time jobs when complete, according to the planning document.
The applicant said: “The development provides a unique opportunity to create a new world-class science park.
“Waterstock will be a highly desirable place to work for the 21st century and beyond.”
Villagers also worry the development will “add more traffic to already congested roads” and could compromise the safety of motorists.
Chris Hill, a parish councillor for Tiddington and Albury, said: “The A418 has had two major crashes in the last three months and the road is already signed as hazardous outside the golf club entrance”.
Mr Hill said the site would be “completely vehicle dependent” and “totally impractical for commuting by pedestrians and cyclists”.
Chris Shaw, a senior network planning manager at Highways Agency, was commissioned to review the transport assessment.
He said: “Given there is already extensive queuing on the northbound exit slip road this development could compromise the safe running of the M40.”
A South Oxfordshire District Council spokesman said: “We’ve received a planning application for this development.
“The planning application is currently under consideration and subject to public consultation, therefore it is not appropriate for the council to make any comment at this stage.”
Pegasus Group and Greystoke have been approached for comment.
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