More than 1,000 people sign petition against 800 homes in Stevenage's Forster Country
PUBLISHED: 11:13 20 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:13 20 November 2019
A petition against plans to build 800 homes on swathes of Green Belt land with cultural and historical significance has amassed more than 1,000 signatures in just five days.
Developers want to build 800 homes and a primary school on land known as Forster Country, situated north of Martins Way in Stevenage - between North Road and Weston Road.
The conservation area includes 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.
More than 300 people have so far lodged their objections with the planning authority Stevenage Borough Council and - at the time of going to press - over 1,000 had signed an online petition. Concerns include the loss of Green Belt and the risk of urban coalescence, with Historic England saying "the harm caused will be severe".
John Spiers, chairman of the Friends of Forster Country, started the petition. The group was formed in 1988 with the aim "to preserve for all time the open green space known as Forster Country", which is now the last remaining farmland in Stevenage.
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John, who has lived in Stevenage since 1971, said: "Please help to stop building on Forster Country. Lobby MPs and councillors and raise awareness.
"This land is dear to the hearts of hundreds of people as the land E M Forster described as the loveliest in England.
"Many residents also use this land for walking, running, exercising their dogs and horse riding. It is virtually the only remaining green lung in the north of Stevenage. These homes will mean a huge loss of amenity for all of Stevenage."
One petition supporter said: "Destroying this beautiful piece of Green Belt will damage the wildlife, increase pollution levels and impact the history and heritage of the most medieval part of our town."
Another said: "There are opportunities for development on land previously developed and now sitting vacant. Green spaces should only be open to development as a last resort."
To sign the petition, visit you.38degrees.org.uk and search for Forster Country. To lodge your views with the council, visit publicaccess.stevenage.gov.uk/online-applications and enter reference number 17/00862/OPM before Monday.
The developers had not made comment at the time of going to press.