THE controversial extension to Seacourt Park-and-Ride is now expected to open in 2020 – more than two years after planning permission was granted.

Oxford City Council gave itself planning permission in January 2018 to nearly double the capacity of the Botley Road site, despite campaigners’ protests.

But now the authority has said work to increase the number of spaces from 794 to about 1,500 is ‘under review’.

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It added the reason for work not taking place now was work on the multi-million pound Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme and to avoid disrupting residents.

But detractors have said changes in motorists' parking habits – especially after the Westgate Centre's reopening in October 2017 – mean the park and ride's extension is now unnecessary anyway.

The Oxford Times:

The car park at Seacourt on Friday, January 4, 2019.

Andrew Gant, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the city council, said: “The need for it was not proven in the first place and I still think that.

"There’s been a considerable change in car parking in the city [since it was approved]. It doesn’t make it any more obvious that we need these extra spaces.

“The fact that it will take two years to get going does not help to make the case either. The plan is not well thought through. The evidence base was not there.”

Last November, the council said work had stopped – with no set date for its restart. That is still the case, but the council said it believes it will be finished at some point next year.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the authority said construction work at the park and ride had started on August 1, 2018, but then stopped on September 3.

The council added the project 'comprises a number of discrete elements, hence [work] has started' – but a new restart date still has not been decided.

Other work was done in November to deter badgers from foraging.

Campaigners have said there is little need for the extension now, and that need will shrink further if the county council builds a new park and ride in Eynsham.

The Oxford Times:

The field next to Seacourt where the extension is supposed to go.

Liz Sawyer, of Oxford Flood Alliance, said: “On the peak shopping days over Christmas, Seacourt Park and Ride was practically empty and Botley Road was chock-a-block.”

The county council had reported over recent days and in the lead-up to Christmas that there were no spaces available at the park and ride.

But at about midday yesterday, an electronic board on Botley Road stated there were 165 spaces available.

About 30 spaces at the park and ride are expected to be unavailable while the work is carried out.

Alex Hollingsworth, board member for planning and transport, said: “There is no delay to the Seacourt Park and Ride extension. Work on ground clearance has already been undertaken in preparedness for construction to start, and we had always planned to coordinated our construction work with the Environment Agency’s work to construct the proposed Oxford Flood Alleviation Scheme.

He added: “We have been waiting, as planned, to get a precise sense of the Environment Agency’s timetable before fixing the precise phasing of different elements of the Seacourt extension.

“These large-scale and important projects take place on neighbouring land, so it is important – not least to avoid disruption to the local community – that they knit closely together. Construction work on Seacourt is due to start later this year and is due to be completed, as planned, in 2020.”

In November, the city council had noted in papers that work had stopped because it wanted to get it 'right'. But it gave no other details regarding any potential completion date.

The council's finance panel was told: "It is important to get the detail of this project right and it is unlikely that works will commence in this financial year.”

Work, when it is completed, will increase the size of the park and ride car park from four hectares, up from about 2.04 hectares.