Civic society says greenbelt should be built on
GUARDIANS of Cheltenham's architectural heritage have controversially argued the greenbelt should be built on.
Cheltenham Civic Society has said some building on the land should be allowed.
But countryside campaigners have voiced their outrage at the statement, calling it "unbelievable".
The divisive words came as today, Cheltenham borough councillors are due to debate recommendations that 28,500 houses should be built across Cheltenham, Gloucester and Tewkesbury by 2031 to meet the demand of a growing population.
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In an email sent to Cheltenham borough councillors ahead of today's meeting, the society outlined its view on future housing plans.
Chairman Stephen Clarke said: "Whilst we do feel it is important to protect the countryside, we also feel that not all the current greenbelt designation is necessarily sacrosanct."
He added the group believed countryside to the east and north of the town should be protected and that developing it to the south would be constrained by infrastructure limitations.
But he made no mention of countryside to the west of Cheltenham, at Swindon Village and Uckington, which is under threat of development.
The Save the Countryside group has been fighting to protect that land and chairman Helen Wells was alarmed at Mr Clarke's view on the greenbelt.
She said: "It's unbelievable. We have met with the civic society in the past and they were aware of our concerns. What makes our town so special is that it's surrounded by beautiful countryside."
She added that the society was being "shortsighted", bearing in mind her group's view that far fewer houses will be needed in the future than has been set out in the Joint Core Strategy. The strategy is being put together between Cheltenham borough, Tewkesbury borough and Gloucester city councils to determine housing numbers for the three areas up to 2031.
The three authorities are now being asked to approve the figures.
Cheltenham borough will vote on the figures at 2.30pm today in the Municipal Offices. Gloucester will debate them on September 27 and Tewkesbury on October 1. â For reaction to a proposed 1,300-home development in Leckhampton, see page 7.