Residents and campaigners to Save Woodcray Countryside (SWC) are gearing up for a final battle with developers at a public inquiry next month.
The event will run from Tuesday, March 10 through to Wednesday, March 18, and be held at Wokingham Borough Council’s Shute End offices.
The planning inspectorate will assess whether Gladmans’ application to build 216 houses on land just off the Finchampstead Road should be given the go-ahead or rejected for good.
Gladmans’ proposals to build on the land have been firmly resisted by both the council and by local residents over the past three years.
Last March, the council’s planning department rejected the plans, citing a number of reasons, including the fact that the land is designated as countryside, not for housing, and is not sustainable.
Residents and campaigners say that the plans would destroy precious green space, increase traffic congestion on the Finchampstead Road, place additional strain on local schools and surgeries and point out that the location is unsustainable.
Campaigners Clarissa Flynn said: “We all know houses need to be built, but this location is simply not sustainable; it feeds out onto a congested A road; there is no cycle path into town; the footpath is less than 3ft wide in places and the bus services are almost non-existent. There are hardly any amenities within walking distance.
“Planting 216 houses in the middle of countryside in these circumstances is utter madness. If that wasn’t bad enough, Gladmans admit that they would need to cut down at least two or three of the veteran oak trees from the Wokingham historic Green Route along Finchampstead Road, causing irreparable ecological and visual damage.
“The Public Inquiry is our last chance to get these proposals rejected for good.”
The Council has instructed one of the country’s top planning barristers, Sasha White QC, to represent them at the hearing.
A spokesperson for the Save Woodcray group said: “The Council are doing all they can; what we need now is for local people to take an hour or two out of their day to pop into the hearing to show the Inspector that we feel strongly about this.
“We have done our best to raise awareness of this issue by using our Yellow Ribbon campaign and putting up posters and delivering leaflets to local houses, we can’t defeat Gladmans on our own: we need residents to support us.”
They say that a large turnout of residents at the recent Sandmartins Inquiry made all the difference, when the Inspector decided to uphold residents’ objections and rejected Gladmans’ plans to develop the land.
Campaigners say that just attending can speak volumes about the strength of public feeling.