The building of 33,110 sq feet of industrial and warehouse buildings with offices, parking and service yards has set a major precedent of expansion of Banbury across on the east side of the M40 - something that had always been resisted as the motorway created a natural barrier to any extension of the town.
Cherwell District Council granted planning permission for the 'Frontier Park' scheme to property developers Monte Blackburn Ltd last year, dismissing a raft of objections from local residents, parish councils and even local authority departments. Its acceptance came after the plan was altered, dropping plans for a service station and lorry park, leaving the scheme for a re-prioritised junction on the A361 with the industrial buildings.
Monty Blackburn Ltd said the development will create 1,000 jobs but objectors think the estimate is 'optimistic'.
Last week Oxfordshire County Council agreed that the A361 speed limit will be reduced to 40mph where it meets the M40 roundabout and 50mph north of that before it returning to the national speed limit. Room is also being made for two bus stops in lay-bys on either side of the road.
Objection, even at this stage, was fierce. Sarah Browne, of Middleton Cheney, who wrote: “The important gap that protects surrounding villages from encroachment by Banbury will be breached thus affecting Chacombe and Middleton. We do not want to be absorbed like Drayton and Bodicote.”
At the time of the decision to allow the application Cherwell District Council (CDC) received 38 substantial objections from parish councils and individuals. They included fears of increased traffic and congestion - compounded by HS2 traffic - rat running through villages, lack of bus services, poor air quality, light pollution from a 24/7 activity and unsightly buildings.
Objectors said the plan was not geared up for advanced engineering or 'knowledge-based industry' as set out in the local plan policy. They said it was a missed opportunity for to create a ‘hub of engineering excellence’.
CPRE - Campaign for the Protection of Rural England - said loss of the ancient farmland would have an adverse impact on the landscape. Banbury Civic Society said Banbury already had enough distribution and warehousing and the buildings would have a significant impact on the visual outlook across the Cherwell valley.
Parish councils fear increased accidents and even worse air quality along the notoriously polluted Hennef Way. Wardington parish council said there was no need for it and even Cherwell District Council's (CDC) own landscape services said the plan would result in 'considerable intrusion into the rural landscape'. Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) drainage department expressed fear of flooding.
HS2 Ltd - a consultee - warned that it would be using the M40 junction and A361 to 'mass haul' construction materials and workforce traffic to its sites.
CDC's planning conclusion noted the plan would lead to 'severe queuing' on the approach to the M40 and a mitigation scheme put forward would lead to traffic disruption elsewhere on the motorway junction.