A WILDLIFE site 'destroyed' after soil and vegetation was removed despite plans for a care home being refused will recover if left alone, campaigners have said.

Councillors have voted twice to refuse plans to turn the area of open green space near Skimmingdish Lane, Bicester, into a two-storey, 64-bed care home.

But following the initial refusal, applicants LNT Care Developments stripped the land and removed lizards in what campaigners said was a 'destructive search'.

The plans have since gone back before Cherwell District Council and were refused for a second time over concerns about a lack of nearby facilities for care home residents and the affect on local wildlife.

Wildlife campaigner, Pam Roberts, said: "It was the right decision for refusal as far as I am concerned.

"It was the wrong place for a care home, totally isolated place from the town centre, and it would be difficult for residents to access, especially on the busy Skimmingdish Lane.

"In regards to the wildlife it is obviously very good news.

"It will recover eventually if it is left alone and allowed to become a district wildlife site."

Mrs Roberts added that she was still 'in shock' that the land was stripped without any approval for the care home.

Applicants LNT Care Developments said at the time that the three-day clearance and relocation of lizards in October was done to ensure it was completed before the lizards' annual hibernation and was undertaken by specialist ecologists.

At the planning meeting on November 23, council planner Bob Duxbury said: "There has been no breach of planning control regarding the clearance of the site.

"Whether that was done in the best way, you will see our ecologist said it wasn't best practice."

But he added that was not an issue for council planners to consider.

The plans were brought back to committee after developers complained no planning policies were given as reasons for refusal.

Ultimately eight councillors voted to refuse the application and six voted in favour.

Councillor Richard Mould, a member of both Bicester Town Council and Cherwell District Council said: "There are no local facilities in this area, the nearest shops are both a substantial distance away and the same with buses.

"We have a policy about homes for older people and those with a disability being close to existing facilities.

"We have got sites proposed for this type of development in SW Bicester and NW Bicester where they will be near community centres.

"We need places where they can go and not be isolated from the town.

"This type of care home in that type of location I believe is wrong."

Cherwell District Councillor Ian Corkin took a different stance and argued, whilst understanding concerns, 'it is a pressing need.'

Mr Corkin said the area is in need of thousands of places to help house the elderly in coming years and the development would have helped fulfil that need.

A LNT Care Developments spokeswoman said: "LNT Care Developments believes a care home would create a much needed service for the local elderly population and generate many local jobs, as well as introducing a new public open space – all of which would be of great public benefit to the area.

"We are therefore currently considering our options."