Residents of Banburyshire villages vow to fight the expansion of an 'unlawful' motocross track they claim is ruining their peace
Residents of Hornton and surrounding villages say expansion of a motocross site near their communities threatens to blight their lives.
Owners of Manor Farm in Balscote have asked Cherwell District Council for retrospective planning permission for the Wroxton Motocross Track situated on farmland half a mile from Hornton.
They originally used the track for Banbury MX Club races for up to 14 days a year (with 14 days 'clear-up' time) for a number of years but the new application is for up to 65 days use a year.
Hornton villagers claim the landowner admitted to exceeding the 14-day permitted use for a temporary motor sport circuit on farm land in a previous application that was withdrawn.They say this has made the track unlawful.
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They say the track has been developed from a small 'local facility' to one that is now rated as one of the top motocross venues in the country, hired out to large clubs and organisations that run large events.
More than 150 letters of objection have been sent to the council from Hornton, Horley, Wroxton, Balscote, Shenington, Alkerton and Bloxham, making this a major development case for planning experts and district councillors to decide. The Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), three parish councils, the owners of Upton Estate and various local authority specialists have added their concerns.
John Offord, chairman of Hornton Parish Council, says: “This is the biggest planning issue we have faced: it threatens to blight our homes and our countryside for decades.
"It beggars belief that a small field scramble track can be replaced by a highly lucrative commercial and nationally-renowned motorsport venue with no thought for planning rules. And now their application proposes perpetual impunity and further growth.
“We regard this as a landmark case for Cherwell District Council as a planning authority and for our Cherwell Local Plan with its strong and clear focus on protecting identified precious rural landscapes like this one.”
Their objections highlight errors in the planning application and cite issues including noise nuisance which the villagers call 'intolerable'. They say it will cause environmental and wildlife damage, create major traffic hazards on narrow lanes, air, water and litter pollution, land contamination and harm to local businesses and homeowners.
Landowner Sandra Kerwood's application says the rental income from the track is essential to her business and is seen as part of the farm's diversification strategy. She has asked for consent for a motocross track with associated camping site for race meetings for up to 24 days a year, excluding days required for set up, preparation, clear up and also private practice sessions.
The application claims the track will bring people into the area, providing a positive year-round impact on the use of shops, pubs and restaurants boosting the local economy, employment and prosperity. Planting of hedging and a wildflower meadow is planned, the design statement says.
Letters of support say a number of tracks have been closed and the sport helps keep young people off the street.
However among the letters of strong opposition is one from Mohammed Ali, the owner of the Indian Queen restaurant, close to the track, who said children from the track had been found throwing stones at customers' cars and police had had to be called. The property had been vandalised, toilets had been blocked with paper and he had found people attending meetings did not always follow the restaurant's rules.
Some made large bookings and failed to turn up, made prank calls and put in fake orders, said Mr Ali. And expanding the operation would make matters worse, he claimed.
One Hornton villager told the Banbury Guardian: "We reject the claim the track has been here for 30 years - it'a been replaced by another track and become a huge circuit hired out on a commercial basis to clubs from all over the country,
"The noise is exceptionally bad. We can no longer sit out in our gardens in summer when race meetings are on. It used to be a local track with local lads with little trailers towed by a car. Now the competitors come in enormous trailers causing hazards and congestion.
"The kind of racing has changed - it was 2-stroke bikes and now it's 4-strokes. Both are noisy but 4-strokes are much higher powered and their sound travels further.
The application can be found at https://planningregister.cherwell.gov.uk/Planning/Display/21/00517/FLandowner Sandra Kerwood declined to comment for this article.