Campaigners’ ray of hope in fight to save Stevenage’s Forster Country from 800 homes development

Plans to build 800 homes on former green belt land in Stevenage, known as Forster Country, will be reconsidered by the...

Plans to build 800 homes on former green belt land in Stevenage, known as Forster Country, will be reconsidered by the planning committee. Picture: Brendan Falvey. - Credit: Archant

With campaigners’ hopes of saving swathes of countryside from an 800-home development still alive, the MP for Stevenage has implored the local authority to “take the right decision”.

Plans to build 800 homes on Stevenage’s Forster Country – former Green Belt land between North Road and Weston Road, which includes author EM Forster’s childhood home Rooks Nest House – were approved by Stevenage Borough Council in February, despite hundreds of objections, with concerns including urban coalescence, loss of heritage, and the development being unsustainable.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, inset, successfully appealed to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to put a hold on the application to consider it himself. The hold was lifted in June, but by then the February permission no longer conformed to planning rules, so the application must go back to SBC’s planning committee.

Mr McPartland said: “This gives the council an opportunity to rectify their previous error and reject this shocking assault on our local environment. Instead of just lip service to climate change, for once take the right decision and act in the interests of local people and our environment.” He says the plans are a “clear and blatant breach of national planning policy” and will place huge pressures on services.

Mr McPartland added: “It would irreversibly disrupt the character of the historic site and permanently damage the area’s unique and beautiful heritage.

“Housing needs must be met through the council ensuring other developments are built on Brownfield sites. Thousands of homes already have planning permission but are not being built, just traded amongst developers. Place time limits on when sites are started and must be completed, or the planning permission is revoked.”

A council spokesman said: “The Secretary of State has reviewed both the Local Plan allocation for 800 homes on this site and the application itself. After delaying the process for quite some time they chose not to determine the application or Local Plan itself.

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“Stevenage’s planning and development committee will be considering the application again in December and must consider the application against the national [planning] policies and the Local Plan policies.”