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Gloucestershire Business News

EXCLUSIVE: Move to protect tree at "likely" development site

Speculation is rife that a controversial bid for 44 homes and a nursery rejected nine years ago on appeal could return after a move was made to protect an ancient tree on the site in a Cotwold village.

In 2015, developers Solihull-based Terra Strategic sought backing from Stroud District Council for 44 houses and a day nursery with a capacity for 30 children on grazing land at the western edge of Leonard Stanley.

Proposed access to the site was off Bath Road at a point between The Grange and a terrace of cottages at Seven Waters.

But in the wake of a parish council meeting, villagers formed the Greenstiles Action Group and some 40 campaigners met in July 2015 to oppose the project. After the bid was refused by planners, the developer then appealed.

Campaign spokesman and Leonard Stanley resident Simon Stroud warned that the project would increase the size of the village by 30% and destroy the character of the village. A housing shortage was recognised but "this area already has enough provision and the right mix of affordable and other types of housing," he added.

In August 2016, despite acknowledging a social benefit for the plan and finding that it would not be inconsistent with a 2005 Local Plan Inspector's conclusions that the site could be suitable for 15 dwellings, the appeal, from Cheltenham-based Hunter Page Planning against SDC's refusal, was thrown out.

Inspector Andrew Dawe concluded: "The site connects to the wider open countryside beyond which has an intrinsically pleasant open character," and added: "The proposed development would occupy a substantial area of land, currently comprising an open field. To some extent it would be between existing buildings, although there is a sizeable gap between them."

An update to planning files, made for the address this week, shows that a tree preservation order has been lodged - and endorsed by planners - for an ancient oak tree on the land.

One villager who lives close to the land and requested anonymity told "With housing such a big issue in this election, and given the attempts made to build here, it's fair to say most people think it's a case of when and not if."

Since the original plan, a new development of 30 homes was permitted on land immediately next door, they added.

"We need more homes and, from an aerial view, you might see the sense of building on this field, but we will throw the baby out with the bathwater if we keep squeezing new developments into every spare green space."

‚óŹ Stroud District Council has been approached for comment.

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