Banburyshire villages left 'reeling' over 'shocking' decision by councillors to give green light to expanded motocross track near their communities

Residents of villages close to the Wroxton Motocross track are said to be 'reeling' this week after Cherwell councillors gave retrospective planning permission for the expanded race track to operate.

Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 12:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd June 2021, 12:36 pm
Motocross competitors line up at the start of a race at Wroxton
Motocross competitors line up at the start of a race at Wroxton

Villagers in Hornton said last Thursday's decision by the planning committee was 'shocking'. They are now depending on Cherwell District Council s planning officers finalising a list of conditions that will limit the number of race, practice or hire days to 20 per year.

The conditions will also limit noise decibels from motorbike engines, hours of racing, parking and numbers of vehicles on the site. Ecology mitigation measures will also have to be implemented.

Those against the plan said the track, its use and expansion over the past four years breaches many Local Plan and national planning policies. The council said a decision had 'not yet been issued'.

Competitors are pictured at the start of a race at the Wroxton track

Activity at the track will not be permitted until the conditions have been defined and implemented so planning officers will be under pressure to resolve a number of issues including landscaping, drainage, ecology and the presence of Great Crested Newts - a protected species - on the site. The background has been featured in the Banbury Guardian along with the planning officer's reasons for recommendation.

After last Thursday's planning meeting, one Hornton villager said: "This track makes our lives a misery. The operators are selfish and greedy, making thousands of pounds by creating and operating this monstrous facility without a shred of planning permission, scarring the countryside and then bombarding us with horrendous noise from it.

"The least we expected was that our planners would stop them or inject some fair and appropriate conditions, in line with Cherwell District Council’s Local Plan and national planning guidelines. But the planning meeting was not the end of it because there is a series of conditions and unresolved issues that have yet to be worked through."

Villagers said they were particularly surprised by the comments of some councillors on the planning committee.

The track at the Wroxton Motocross facility which villagers say has been expanded mainly during the last four years without planning permission

"They had clearly read little or nothing of the objections submitted to the council by Hornton Parish Council, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, four other parish councils and hundreds of local people," said another villager.

"They admitted in the meeting they knew nothing about motocross and clearly had no idea that the operators of the track had defiled a beautiful part of north Oxfordshire without any planning permission and harmed local small businesses."

A third resident said: "Where was CDC’s much vaunted environmental/climate change strategy? It appears completely at odds, not least with huge motor homes travelling here from all over the country and then six or more hours of 40 bikes roaring at full tilt round the track."

The retrospective application, required by the council after enforcement action had been invoked, attracted more than 200 objections from nine villages near the track and four parish councils. Letters of support were sent to the council, mainly from outside the Banbury area, applauding the track owners for providing a popular competition venue for many enthusiasts.

An aerial view of the original track established for the Banbury MX club in 1981

A small track was originally established for the Banbury MX club in the 1980s but has been expanded in the last four years to become an important 'international' venue for motocross competitions, attracting clubs from all over the country. Objectors said there had been no demonstration of a local need, particularly in view of the development of a large track at Arncott, near Bicester, which serves various levels of the sport.

"We have demonstrated the expanded track is not primarily there to answer any local need," said a resident. "It is not disputed by any party that this track has grown to attract national events and clubs from all over the country. It is also not disputed that Banbury MX Club are now the minority user - they use the track fewer times per year than the number of hire-out events. Since 2020, Hornton Parish Council has provided abundant evidence on both of these points."

A spokesman for Cherwell District Council said: "The council's enforcement team will investigate any reported breaches of planning conditions. Planning committee resolved to delegate authority to the Assistant Director for Planning and Development to issue a decision, subject to the resolution of objections and subject to conditions.

"This decision has not yet been issued by the Local Planning Authority. Once it is issued and implemented, the motorcross track will need to adhere to the conditions that will be set out in the final decision."