CONTROVERSIAL proposals to build nine homes near an Otmoor village’s historic church have been deferred.

Developer Mark Collins, of Welland Design & Build, wants to build nine homes, including three affordable properties, on farmland near St Swithin’s Church, Merton, near Bicester.

Cherwell District Council’s planning officer had recommended the application was refused as the “proposal represents unsustainable development beyond the built-up limits of Merton”.

There is also opposition from dozens of residents who have joined forces to fight the plans.

The district council received 44 letters of objection, citing issues including that the site was of significant archaeological interest and the scheme was contrary to the local plan. A 91-signature petition from villagers raising 26 points of concern was also submitted.

These included access to the site and highways concerns, impact on homes, wildlife at the site and sustainability of the village.

Merton Parish Council and Oxfordshire County Council’s highways department raised no objection to the proposals.

The county council’s archaeology department recommended the application be approved.

The plans had been due to be discussed on Thursday night, but the application was deferred to a date to be confirmed.