A DEVELOPER has pledged to help rehome village ducks after they were removed by pond campaigners.
Villagers say they were forced to move the wildfowl, which had lived on Weston-on-the-Green pond in North Lane for 30 years, fearing building work would impact on them.
Campaigners say a combination of failure to gain village green status for the pond and its bank, and then work starting on a four-bedroom property behind the pond, meant they had to move the ducks to a new home in Charlton-on-Otmoor.
But developer of the neighbouring property, Jon Kirk, claims the ducks were moved before building work started, and offered to help with the ducks if they were returned.
He said as part of the plans for the site he had a special drainage system designed to ensure the pond was “unaffected by building work”.
Mr Kirk, whose property was given planning permission in 2010, said: “The welfare of the ducks is paramount in my mind.
“This design has been fully approved by local council drainage engineers and is now a condition of the build.
“I should also like to point out that the ducks were removed prior to any building work taking place, and that I would be very happy to assist with looking after any ducks in the future.”
Although Oxfordshire County Council granted village green status for the pond, it refused the condition for the land there, which it owns.
Villagers say it made the pond “unworkable”, but the council says its hands were tied because the law dictates it cannot handover its land.
Norman Boardman, 82, who describes his job as “duckmeister” – a person who cares for ducks – said: “I have been putting the ducks to bed and letting them out every morning for the last 30 years.
“It was a combined decision by Cherwell and Oxfordshire County Council that made us decide to give up.”
The pond committee said the final straw came after dust and mud got into the water as the water feed to the pond runs across the land.
Happier times for Mr Boardman with his ducks in 2006
Susan Davis, part of the village pond group, said: “A significant factor in the decision to take the ducks off the pond was the large influx of mud and silt into the pond from earthworks on the land behind the pond. The real problem was we lost such a lot of goodwill in the village from people who had spent 30 years looking after it – mowing, planting and the ducks.
“People now think ‘why are we doing this?’”
The pond was created in 1986 by villagers who de-silted it, built up the banks and continued to maintain it.
Parish clerk Bob Hessian said: “The really sad thing is there are no ducks now.
“It was a nice pleasant place to be in Weston and we are losing that now.”
County council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “The relevant land is classed as highway and under nationally-set law the county council is not permitted to give it village green status.”
Planning authority Cherwell District Council is aware of a potential breach of regulations with the development and is investigating.