THE long-running planning saga to expand Seacourt Park and Ride cost taxpayers about £160,000 in lost revenue, the city council has said.

The controversial £3.4m development will see a 668-space extension built on the green belt and a flood plain next to the current park and ride in West Oxford.

However, it is still fiercely opposed by environmental campaigners who took their ultimately unsuccessful battle to the Government.

City council planning bosses insist the park and ride expansion is badly needed, especially because of extra traffic brought into Oxford by the re-opening of the Westgate Centre.

Having fought fight off a number of objections in the last year, it has now said work to build the extension will begin in late summer and will take about a year to complete.

As well as the £400,000 planning for the project, the revenue originally budgeted for had the extension opened in April is £160,000.

Tom Jennings, Oxford City Council spokesman, said: “When we produce our budget we have to make predictions about the amount of money we expect to generate in the upcoming financial year.

“We had originally anticipated having the extension to Seacourt Park and Ride open during 2017/18, which would have generated additional income.

“This project has been delayed due to the city council being determined to get this complex and demanding scheme right.”

Figures obtained by the Oxford Mail show that following the Westgate’s re-opening last October, the park and ride was running at 134 per cent capacity that month and at 129 per cent capacity in November.

Those figures are possible because visitors left the park and ride before their tickets expired and other motorists took their place.

In March, the Government told the council that it was happy for it to decide whether to proceed with the park and ride expansion.

That followed heated meetings held in December 2017 and January. Last December, the chairwoman of the West area planning committee Louise Upton tipped the vote in the council’s favour after four councillors were opposed and four were in favour.

In January, members on the planning review committee – held when councillors urged for the decision to be reconsidered – were told to resign by campaigners after the proposal was again approved.

Despite the decisions, opposition to the scheme remains.

Julia Hammett, the chairwoman of Oxfordshire Badger Group, said the park and ride expansion must be rethought because of frequent congestion along West Way and Botley Road.

She said: “The whole junction coming off from the A34 is really chaotic.

"They’ve got to look at the proposal again.

"There is no joined up thinking. [Councils] have got to get together. This is why a unitary authority is the way forward.”

Peter Rawcliffe, chairman of the Oxford Flood Alliance, said: “We remain opposed although obviously we’ve had to accept it’s going to happen. We still think it’s unnecessary and that it won’t really be used very much.

“We don’t like the precedent of building on a flood plain. Building on a flood plain is not really a good thing to do.”

The city council will see an 18.3 per cent increase in its parking capacity once the expansion is completed – with a total of 4,317 spaces across Oxford, up from 3,649.

By the time it is complete, it will conclude a planning project dating back decades. The Government refused a smaller expansion at Seacourt in 1999.

In addition to Seacourt, the city council runs Redbridge and Peartree park and rides. Those have about 1,070 spaces and 1,035 spaces respectively.

The county council runs the Thornhill park and ride – which has 1,335 parking spaces – along with Water Eaton park and ride. That has 758 spaces.

It is looking to continue with plans for park and rides further out of Oxford, including one in Eynsham in an effort to alleviate traffic problems on the A40.