Plans for 800 new homes on Stevenage's Forster Country given go-ahead despite objections

PUBLISHED: 10:45 05 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:45 05 February 2020

Stevenage's Forster Country, with St Nicholas Church in the distance. Picture: Brendan Falvey

Stevenage's Forster Country, with St Nicholas Church in the distance. Picture: Brendan Falvey

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Plans to build 800 homes on Green Belt land in Stevenage were approved by the borough council's planning committee last night, despite 450 formal objections and a petition calling to save the land from development.

Plans for 800 new homes and a primary school on Stevenage countryside known as Forster Country have been approved by Stevenage Borough Council. Picture: SavillsPlans for 800 new homes and a primary school on Stevenage countryside known as Forster Country have been approved by Stevenage Borough Council. Picture: Savills

The land between Weston Road and North Road - known as Forster Country - will bring 800 homes, a primary school and a country park, with seven councillors voting for the development, and five against.

The public seating area was filled with residents waiting to hear the outcome of the application after months of campaigning, with a petition against the plans receiving more than 1,600 signatures.

The most recent attempt to save Forster Country came from Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, who asked the housing secretary to step in and put a halt to the proceedings. He also asked the secretary of state to call in proposals for another development in Gresley Park to the east of Stevenage, which is set to be decided by East Herts Council this evening.

Plans for 800 new homes and a primary school on Stevenage countryside known as Forster Country have been approved by Stevenage Borough Council. Picture: SavillsPlans for 800 new homes and a primary school on Stevenage countryside known as Forster Country have been approved by Stevenage Borough Council. Picture: Savills

The land is in a conservation area in part, which is in place to protect Grade I-listed 12th century St Nicholas Church, Grade II*-listed The Bury and Grade I-listed Rooks Nest House - where author E M Forster spent his childhood from 1883 to 1893.

John Spiers spoke at the meeting on behalf of activist group Friends of Forster Country, which has raised a number of concerns about the proposals.

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He said: "Stevenage was designed for people to live and work where they are never far away from the countryside.

"The proposed development site backs on to plans North Herts District Council has for land there, so it's not just 800 homes. There will be a staggering 1,700.

"The minimal gap between the development and Graveley means there's real danger of the village being swallowed up."

This year the Friends of Forster Country's annual walk to celebrate the anniversary of E M Forster's birth 141 years ago received its biggest ever turnout. Picture: Brendan FalveyThis year the Friends of Forster Country's annual walk to celebrate the anniversary of E M Forster's birth 141 years ago received its biggest ever turnout. Picture: Brendan Falvey

He also cited loss of biodiversity, the climate emergency and the air pollution on North Road as reason not to support the proposals.

The committee also heard from Catherine Bruce from Savills, on behalf of applicants Bellway Homes and Miller Homes.

She spoke about the developers plans to install "excellent" footpaths and cycleways in hopes it will offset the frequent use of cars, and how the country park and planting of additional trees will improve the biodiversity of the site.

The developers plan to have the first set of homes completed by 2022, and the entire project completed by 2027.

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