THOUSANDS of people have signed a petition to stop a housing development that could cause harm to a rare white badger.
Oxford City Council, in partnership with its housing developer Oxford City Housing Ltd (OCHL), is planning to build at least 29 houses on land in Iffley Village, 12 of which will be social housing.
The row between environmental campaigners and the council has been rumbling on since November 2020, when the local authority announced it bought two horse grazing fields for £4.5 million.
The council acquired two plots of land in the sale, including one on Meadow Lane, and the other on Memorial Field – the council has said it has no plans to build on the latter.
Friends of the Fields at Iffley have said whilst it understands the need for more affordable housing in the city, it urges the council to consider brownfield sites over the ‘limited’ green spaces left.
The group has now said building houses on the green space will pose a threat to foxes, deer, and most importantly badgers, which are a protected species.
Campaigners captured wildlife spotted at the site, both in the day and the night, with night-cam footage revealing a huge badger sett, where a family of badger's live, including a young white badger, only eight months old.
White badgers, also known as albino badgers, are extremely rare as they lack any pigmentation.
The group named the young white badger, Luna, and even created a video, voiced over by American folk legend, Peggy Seeger, calls on the council to rethink its development plans due to the wildlife found in the area.
Speaking in the video, Ms Seeger said: “White as the moon, so we have named her little Luna.
“Luna is obviously at home here. Luna is special and white badgers are very rare.”
The group believes the badger set, home to Luna, has been there for ‘centuries’ and would have taken ‘generations of badgers’ to create.
Nicholas Brown, who created the video, said: “We must think of the nature that we have left in our city as a truly valuable heritage - one that we can pass down to younger generations.
“We can teach our kids about white badgers and ecosystems and the work of Charles Elton, but only if we fight to preserve what little is left.
“Luna and the badgers are ambassadors for nature - unable to speak our language but gifted with the same rights that we all share by living in this community, and on this planet.”
Iffley Badger Group has now created a petition calling on the council to ‘leave Luna’ and the other wildlife in the meadows ‘undisturbed’.
The petition, which currently has over 2,500 signatures, calls on the council to build new housing on brownfield sites instead.
A spokesperson for Oxfordshire Badger Group said: “Oxford City Council is waging war on wildlife.
“Instead of building hundreds of council houses on sustainable, brownfield sites which will meet the urgent needs of Oxford's homeless they are now building on small ecologically rich green spaces like this within the city, whilst at the same time signing off thousands of Green Belt fields around Oxford for housing which is unaffordable for most local residents.
“The Council's 'green' legacy will be the loss of much of Oxford's natural environment and species, in pursuit of unsustainable growth.”
The council said that it has undertaken an ‘extensive survey’ and ‘monitoring’ of the badger sett, and in line with the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, OCHL will seek a licence from Natural England when works are required that ‘may’ affect the sett.
The application for the licence cannot be submitted until planning permission is granted.
A spokesperson for the council said: “OCHL expects to submit a planning application to build around 30 new net-zero carbon homes on the Meadow Lane site in March. The development will include three shared ownership homes and 12 council homes let at social rent.
“Each new council home makes a small but life-changing contribution to tackling systemic inequality in Oxford, where the housing affordability crisis means that a third of our city’s children live below the poverty line.”
The council said ‘nearly all’ of the council’s planned housing developments are on brownfield land, due to the combination of the flood plain and Green Belt land around the city.
The council, along with Thames Water and Magdalen College Oxford, however, is pushing forward with plans to build 3,000 homes off Grenoble Road – a site that was previously green belt land.
There are also objections to council plans to build on New Hinksey Playground on Bertie Place, off Abingdon Road.
Developments are popping up at speed on land surrounding the city.
Just north of the Wolvercote Roundabout, there are plans to create the ‘Oxford North’ site.
This will see 480 new homes, and 4,500 new jobs for the city, being built on the fields centred around the A40, A34, and A44.
Salt Cross Garden Village, a key part of West Oxfordshire's 2031 local plan, will see 2,200 new homes and a new science business park built north of the A40, near Eynsham.
There are also plans to develop 1,790 new homes on the open countryside between Oxford and Kidlington.