CONTROVERSIAL plans for new housing within an Oxford conservation area have been revised.

Ruskin College wants to build 150 homes in Old Headington on fields next to Oxford’s northern bypass.

The plan, which has met with strong opposition from residents and the city’s preservation trust, has been scaled back from 190 homes.

Ruskin now wants to build on two, not three fields, and has introduced the idea of an access route linking the homes to the A40 bypass.

Oxford City Council has plans to build 1,000 homes at Barton West, on the opposite side of the A40.

The college has submitted a masterplan to Oxford City Council stating it wants to “make a significant contribution to meeting Oxford’s housing needs.”

The development, called Headington Meads, would include town houses, along with apartments and flats in four-storey buildings in the north west part of the site.

Ruskin Fields cover 3.5 hectares of the college’s campus in Old Headington, which is currently undergoing extensive redevelopment.

The homes are proposed in the field close to Foxwell Drive and the central field adjoining the A40.

The masterplan states: “This will leave the eastern field as open access amenity space for the benefit of all residents, including the existing local community at Old Headington.

“The orchard and meadow to the south will provide additional amenity space.”

Two access options are put forward, with a road from Foxwell Drive proposed as an alternative to the ring road link.

Ruskin principal Prof Audrey Mullender said opponents overstated the attractiveness of the fields.

She said: “They make it sound like a wildlife wonderland is about to be put under concrete. But there are opportunities to combine ecological awareness with a sympathetic development.

“We will be improving the area. It will be very beautiful. People are already telling me, ‘I wouldn’t mind living there.’”

She said materials used would reflect “the historic character of Old Headington.

But Veronica Hurst, the co- chairman of the Ruskin Fields group, formed by the Friends of Old Headington, said: “It appears the college has shifted the development away from the fields nearest Stoke Place.

“But there is to be a higher density of housing on the two fields where they want to build.

We would still be losing two medieval fields with maybe two four-storey blocks of flats.”

She said access from the ring road would be hugely problematic, while a road from Foxwell Drive would rob residents of an important green space.

Debbie Dance, director of Oxford Preservation Trust, said: “There is no land suitable for development in the open fields at Ruskin College.

“It is part of the open setting and open character of the college, of the Old Headington Conservation Area in which it is situated, and of Oxford.”

City councillors are expected to consider the masterplan next month.