RESIDENTS in one of the country's most historically significant villages have said a council housing plan could ruin their rural idyll.

Nuneham Courtenay near Abingdon is one of just two villages in the country in which all buildings – which date back to the 18th century – are listed.

As well as having Grade II status, the entire village is in a conservation area and Oxford Green Belt, and is home to dozens of friendly peacocks from nearby Harcourt Arboretum.

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But now, villagers say South Oxfordshire District Council’s proposed Local Plan to build thousands of homes in the area could mean it is overrun by construction vehicles, cars and lorries.

According to Department for Transport figures, villagers are already pummelled with the noise and fumes from nearly 20,000 vehicles a day, including more than 600 lorries.


One resident, Nicola Caffel, said it was a ‘fight to keep the village alive’ – and that the district council’s proposal would not help.

June Harris, who has lived in the village since 1949, said residents were ‘taking their lives into their own hands’ trying to cross the relentless traffic on the A4074.

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Despite speed being limited to 30mph for motorists, it still causes disruption to those living just metres from the roadside.

Villagers now worry the volume of traffic will increase with SODC keen to build thousands of new homes in Culham, Berinsfield, Chalgrove Airfield and off Grenoble Road.


It is the latest in a string of problems to have dogged the council's Local Plan, which was completely redrafted last year after the resignation of former leader John Cotton, partly over his cabinet's controversial first draft.

Mr Cotton and another member of his former cabinet have since been kicked out of the local Conservative Party group for criticising new leader Jane Murphy's attempts to re-write the housing plan.

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The new draft now includes 1,850 new homes at Culham, between Nuneham and Abingdon, and another 1,600 in Berinsfield, all by 2034.

It also wants developers to build another 1,700 in Grenoble Road and 2,025 at Chalgrove Airfield in that same time. Government agency Homes England eventually wants to build 3,000 homes at the airfield.

All of that requires billions of pounds of investment in transport links – but it is not immediately clear what work – if any – would be done to improve the A4074.


Another resident, Simon Gray, said he was ‘worried about urban sprawl’ – including the government's proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway piling more traffic through the village.

It could pass close by if given permission by the Government next year.

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The only other English village to have all its buildings listed is Milton Abbas, in Dorset, famous for its thatched roofs.

As part of such grading by Historic England, all renovations on buildings must be approved before being undertaken. Unapproved work can land owners of listed buildings hefty fines.


The village’s parish council has now handed out leaflets urging people to respond to SODC’s Local Plan consultation, which ends on Friday this week.

Councillors said the village was at real risk of being divided, with the A4074 becoming impassable with the sheer volume of cars passing through.

The structural integrity of the listed homes is also said to be a problem because of their shallow foundations.

The village’s houses were originally included inside Nuneham Park estate, but were taken down and rebuilt because its owner, the 1st Earl of Harcourt, thought they spoiled the view from his own home. He lived in Nuneham House, just a short walk away from the current village.