THE face of Botley was changed forever last night as the application to transform West Way shopping centre was finally approved.

After years of revised plans, community campaigns and a change of developers, Mace's multi-million pound plans were given the go-ahead by Vale of White Horse District Council's planning committee, who voted eight-to-three to approve.

The scheme include 261 student flats, a 123-bed hotel, 140 residential flats and a new "community hub" which will be home to Botley Library and Botley Baptist Church.

But neighbours have continually criticised the massive scale of the development.

Dr Mary Gill, co-chairwoman of the West Way Community Concern group said yesterday was a "disappointing day for democracy and the people of Botley".

She said: "This demonstrates how the planning system is stacked in favour of developers and those who profit from development and against those who live with the consequences.

"What are we going to do next? It's too soon to say but we were prepared last time to fight to the bitter end and we will do so again."

Last night's approval comes 18 months after the original £100m West Way plan by Doric Properties was unanimously thrown out by the Vale planning committee on December 3, 2014, for being an overdevelopment.

That scheme would have seen a supermarket, six-screen cinema, gym, hotel, health centre, library, 50 flats and 525 student rooms erected.

Doric and Mace originally appealed against the decision but later withdrew that appeal.

Doric then pulled out of the scheme altogether leaving Mace to draw up a new version which would meet residents' approval.

In May this year Mace conceded to reduce the height of the hotel, student and resident accommodation blocks by one storey after reading residents' 332 objections, but the final plans still did not win the approval of many.

West Way Concern Community campaigner Lorna Berrett last night said it was the Vale's duty "to serve the citizens of Botley" but last night they had been let down.

The co-chairwoman of the group said: "The objections to this application show that local people are still very concerned about the height and mass of the development.

"We want something better for Botley.

"There is scope for a lower rise scheme that is more in scale and character, provides local retail, restaurants, hotels and cafes, space for community activities and affordable homes."

Residents at the meeting also raised concerns about the lack of affordable housing in the scheme.

Instead of agreeing to build the Vale's standard minimum requirement of 40 per cent social housing on any development, Mace offered to give the council £2m to build affordable homes elsewhere in the district – a figure which equates to more like ten per cent of the scheme's housing figure.

Mrs Berrett added: "Oxfordshire desperately needs affordable homes.

"If Mace are serious about the commitments they have made to deliver a scheme that meets needs then they should not be trying to undermine these affordable housing targets."

Mace confirmed that work will be expected to begin on the site at the beginning of next year.

They will be phasing in the new development to allow current independent businesses in the centre to continue to trade.

The company's development director Hugh Griffiths said last night: "We are thrilled to be able to move ahead with our plans to provide Botley with the new shopping centre it needs.

"We are particularly excited to be able to provide a new community centre and we look forward to starting demolition and construction soon and continuing to work with residents and the West Way community liaison group.

"It is time for West Way to be restored to its rightful place as the beating heart of the local community."