THE expansion of Seacourt Park-and-Ride onto a green field is just one of a string of potentially ‘devastating’ similar developments in Oxford, one of the city’s top environmental protection groups has warned.

Among the attacks on Oxford City Council’s plan at the final decision meeting on Wednesday from badger lovers and flood watchers, the head of Oxford Preservation Trust warned about a wider threat to green spaces.

Debbie Dance said the loss of wildlife from paving over the 4.3ha field would add to the acres of land the trust will have to hand over for the three-mile Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme being planned by the Environment Agency to protect the city from flooding.

Both the council and the EA are planning numerous measures to help wildlife and mitigate the impact of their plans, but said their projects are vital for the city.

Taking the stand at Oxford Town Hall, Mrs Dance said: “We are very familiar with the issues caused by building on the flood plain.

“Take the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme: 25 per cent of it is on our land and the EA have told us the important wildflower meadows where there are snake’s head fritillaries will be compromised.

“Many trees will go, drainage will be changed and wildflower-rich meadows will be lost.”

Referring back to the Seacourt plans she said: “Building in the flood plain will displace an additional body of water.

“The EA raised no objection, but they have demonstrated they are not a landscape or public access body, they deal with water.

“The Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme is already pretty devastating to us.”

Oxford City Council, which is planning the Seacourt expansion and which owns the field to be used, has always acknowledged it is in the green belt, but said there is an overriding need.

One officer at the town hall explained: “The National Planning Policy Framework says development should only be allowed on the green belt in very special circumstances... [but] park-and-ride is an integral part of city development.

“This car park is currently operating above the capacity recommended and is increasing.”

The EA said its flood scheme would create a ‘wildlife corridor’ linking habitats to improve biodiversity.

Project executive, Richard Harding, said: “The scheme will minimise the impact to the wildflower-rich Hinksey Meadow by routing the channel as far as practicable around the edge and avoiding the main areas of fritillary.We are also planning to create a much larger, meadow using seeds from floodplain meadows.”

The EA said it was also working with the Open University’s Floodplain Meadows Partnership to ensure work was carried out as sensitively as possible.

Mr Harding said: “The scheme design will keep tree loss to a minimum and the project team are in talks with landowners and interest groups about suitable replanting.

“This will include planting new woodland to replace lost trees.

“In addition the second stage wider part of the channel has been designed as floodplain grazing marsh. This is a new habitat type for the scheme area and will increase the diversity of habitat.”

The EA added that one of the aims of the Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme was to provide ‘a long-term green legacy that includes much more than reduced flood risk’.

The project team are building partnerships with local wildlife groups, charities and academia to create a ‘living laboratory’ in Oxford and the scheme will create at least 15 hectares of new priority wildlife habitat, including many ponds and scrapes for freshwater species.