Councillors today voted against plans to exclude woodland at Meon Vale from potentially being built on.
Last week the Cabinet at Stratford District Council voted to approve a draft version of its Site Allocations Plan (SAP), with the addition of the woodland site in Meon Vale as a housing site.
However today (Monday) that decision needed to be approved at the full Council meeting before the district council can look towards launching a public consultation into the SAP.
The SAP is a local plan document that will sit alongside the existing Core Strategy to guide where and how potential development proposals will be built.
A group called the Friends of Meon Vale Woodland Walk has been formed by residents angered by plans from developer St Modwen to build up to 300 homes within the woodland.
They argue the woodland has been a lifeline, especially during the pandemic, and say it was actually marketed as a selling point when many originally bought their homes.
Manuela Perteghella, Lib Dem councillor for Welford-on-Avon, put forward an amendment which sought to exclude the 35 acre woodland site from the SAP plan. After a lengthy debate the amendment was defeated by 20 votes to 14.
During a four-hour online meeting, watched by the Herald, even a majority of the councillors who voted against this ‘safeguarding’ of Meon Vale say they believe the woodland site should be preserved.
However councillors who were against formalising the protection measures, notably Deputy Leader Daren Pemberton, stressed that as the SAP is a consultation proposal and not a planning application and therefore to exclude one woodland site at this stage would be “myopic”. Furthermore, it was argued, making numerous amendments at this stage could delay SAP to such an extent that the core strategy could be compromised, meaning planning applications for housing would ultimately be harder to decline in the future.
In response Cllr Perteghella argued that sites such as the Meon Vale must be protected at all costs – given how much it has meant to local people during lockdown, and also in particular to be in keeping with the council’s climate emergency declaration.
For more on this story see this Thursday’s edition of the Herald.