Plans to build 800 homes and a primary school in countryside that has historical and cultural significance have taken a step forward.

In 2020, Stevenage Borough Council granted planning permission for 800 homes and a primary school to be built in Forster Country - land between North Road and Weston Road in Stevenage - subject to the signing of a Section 106 Legal Agreement.

The land includes author EM Forster's childhood home Rooks Nest House, Grade I-listed St Nicholas Church and Grade II-listed The Bury.

Following lengthy negotiations, the Section 106 Legal Agreement - which details legal obligations entered into to mitigate the impacts of the development proposal, such as developer contributions to infrastructure - has now been signed by all parties, including the developers Bellway Homes and Miller Homes.

Planning applications to agree the layout, landscaping, scale and appearance of 473 of the homes - the southern residential parcels - and to agree the details for a country park and infrastructure have now been submitted to the council for approval.

Hundreds of people objected to the proposed housing development, with concerns including urban coalescence, loss of heritage, and the development being unsustainable.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland has previously called the plans "unjustifiable" and said they will put huge pressure on services and do not align with the National Planning Policy Framework.

A hold was put on the planning application in 2020 by the then Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, which he lifted after deciding the application was for the council to determine.

Members of the Friends of Forster Country - a campaign group formed in 1988 with the aim “to preserve for all time the open green space known as Forster Country” - tirelessly fought the plans, but to no avail.

The council’s planning department has said the housing development will "result in less than substantial harm in terms of the character and appearance of the Conservation Area and the setting of nearby listed buildings”.

The developers and council expect 500 of the homes to have been built by 2025.