Vows to fight off proposals to build on Cheltenham's greenbelt
"STAND firm and defend our greenbelt land" was the defiant call from community leaders in parts of Cheltenham set to be affected by plans for tens of thousands of homes.
People living in parishes such as Uckington, Elmstone Hardwicke and Up Hatherley have vowed not to give up without a fierce fight in the face of the threat of massive housing developments in their areas.
It comes after council bosses unveiled plans to solve Cheltenham, Tewkesbury and Gloucester's housing crisis by building 33,449 homes across the three areas before 2031 – with more than 3,500 acres of precious greenbelt land earmarked for homes.
Michael Griffiths, chairman of Uckington parish council, said residents would be determined in their opposition – with as many as 4,829 of the homes planned for nearby land to the north west of Cheltenham.
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He urged planning authorities behind the blueprint to prepare themselves for a fight.
He told the Echo: "People living here have always considered this a rural setting.
"That is one of the main reasons why my wife and I chose to move here some 40 years ago and I'm sure many other people came here for the same reason.
"Building so many homes here would change that completely. It would mean we become part of Cheltenham.
"I'm not happy about the scale of proposals and don't see why we should bear the brunt of the town's housing needs.
"As chairman of the parish council it is up to me to represent the views of people living here and I can tell you now that residents will want to fight to defend the greenbelt."
The vast majority of homes pencilled in for north west Cheltenham would be contained in Elms Park, a 4,500 home development between Elmstone Hardwicke and Swindon Village for which outline plans went on display earlier in the summer. Campaigners from Save The Countryside have already vowed to do all they can to stop it from going ahead.
The mood of defiance was echoed by David Cooper, clerk to parish councils in Uckington, Elmstone Hardwicke and Boddington – all villages which would be in the eye of the development storm. "This would alter the landscape here totally," he said.
"I would expect a considerable amount of opposition from residents.
"From the outset my main concerns would be the principle of building on the greenbelt, the threat of flooding and how on earth we would cope with the influx of traffic."
North west Cheltenham is not the only area now in the sights of beady-eyed developers. Green fields in Leckhampton could see 1,075 homes built, the former MOD site at Ashchurch has been earmarked for 2,125 homes and a swathe of land off Up Hatherley Way has been targeted for 795 homes.
Stuart Fowler, chairman of Up Hatherley parish council, warned residents they must be sensible in their opposition.
"At a time like this, emotion is no good," he said. "We will have to rely on cold, hard, scientific argument if we are going to launch meaningful opposition. However, I think one word worth emphasising at this point is 'sustainability'.
"If we don't have the infrastructure to support these homes then they should not be built – it's as simple as that."