HUNDREDS of shoppers and traders joined hands around Botley’s West Way shopping centre to protest against controversial redevelopment plans.

Campaigners have said Saturday’s human chain demonstration exceeded all their expectations after around 550 people surrounded the under-threat shops.

Organised by West Way Community Concern, the gathering took place to protest against plans for a £100m redevelopment proposed by developer Doric Properties.

Its plan to demolish the centre, elderly housing and the privately-owned Elms Parade shops to make way for a supermarket, cinema, health centre and 600 student flats is fiercely opposed by many residents.

The protestors carried banners bearing the slogan: “Botley wants better, not bigger” and performed a Mexican wave during the 30-minute demonstration.

Campaign group chairman Chris Church said: “This has been amazing. And it sends a very strong message to Vale of White Horse District Council and the developer about what local people here want.

“I would be very surprised if Doric could get 550 people to turn out to support its proposals.”

He added that in one week the campaign has collected 1,500 signatures to a petition opposing the plans and £4,500 for a fund to fight against them.

Alison Green, who owns hairdresser Hair Therapy in the centre, said the protest proved that people did not support Doric’s proposals.

She said: “We keep being told that people want it to happen and they want the changes – well, this shows them how wrong they are.

“I have been here 11 years and built my business up from nothing. That is my livelihood. I have staff who live above my shop.”

Jan Bartlett, from Cafe Aloha, said: “We are a community and we are strong and we are not going to be bulldozed.”

Clive Smith, of St Paul’s Crescent, Botley, said he had lived in the area for more than 40 years and was concerned about the impact of the new centre.

He said: “I think what is being proposed is completely inappropriate for the area.”

The campaigners’ petition will be presented to the district council on December 11.

No one from Doric was available for comment.