Campaigners appoint lawyer to fight Stevenage Borough Council over Green Belt land in Forster Country

Forster Country campaigners, Anne Conchie, John Alabaster, Angela Hepworth, James Green, Margaret As

Forster Country campaigners, Anne Conchie, John Alabaster, Angela Hepworth, James Green, Margaret Ashby, Founder and John Spiers, Chairman, want to protect the green belt around Stevenage - Credit: Archant

The first phase of discussions to approve Stevenage’s Local Plan may be complete, but one environmental group says it is just getting started in its attempt to legally challenge building on Green Belt land.

Part of Forster Country to the north of Stevenage

Part of Forster Country to the north of Stevenage - Credit: Archant

Stevenage Borough Council’s Local Plan maps out 7,600 new homes for Stevenage Borough, as well as new employment sites.

It includes housing sites to the north, south and west of Stevenage, a revamped and expanded employments area on Gunnels Wood Road, and an overhaul of the town centre in partnership with the Stevenage First agency.

Some parts of the plan have already been looked at by a government inspector, but with the next hearings due on March 21, the Friends of the Forster Country are readying themselves to fight plans to put homes on the area of Green Belt land to the north of the town where the author EM Forster once lived.

FOFC member John Spiers – who has helped write a book on the area, which the author wrote about in his famous work Howards End – has campaigned for many years to protect it.

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He said: “It is hoped to persuade the inspector to refuse permission for building on the Forster Country. A senior barrister engaged following the generosity of many residents will be arguing to save the Forster Country, invoking some of the complex planning issues involved.”

The group questions whether the conditions needed to make an exception to building protections for Green Belt land have been met in this case, as the council has to prove all other options have been considered. Housing Minister Gavin Barwell said last month that councils can build on Green Belt land, but only as ‘a last resort’.

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Mr Spiers says the council should consider redeveloping other sites such as the Icon building on Lytton Way, which is currently up for let.

The next hearing on the Stevenage Local Plan will take place at the Ibis hotel’s Forum suite on Tuesday, March 21, from 10am. All are welcome to attend.

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