PLANS to build 20 homes in Minchinhampton are one step closer to becoming a reality this week after Stroud District Council agreed to transfer a strip of land to a housing association.

The 0.43-acre patch of rough grassland, south of The Bulwarks estate, would be used to enable the development of new affordable homes.

Speaking during the cabinet meeting at Ebley Mill on Thursday, Frances Roden, cabinet member for housing, said: "The council has been really supportive of this scheme because the need is recognised for affordable housing in Minchinhampton.

"It will make a tremendous difference for the 20 households involved."

Cllr Roden said she knew some residents opposed the plans but stressed that new affordable homes were the council’s priority.

Among the concerns were fears over the development of a greenfield site, the expansion of the town and possible increased pressure on school places.

SDC's land, which is valued between £1,500 and £1,700, will be transferred free of charge to Sanctuary Housing Association.

It is currently restricted to ‘rough woodland’ under a covenant imposed by the previous landowner but this will be lifted if the project goes ahead.

The transferral would allow for the development of a wider section of the site, which is mostly privately owned. After SDC launched a site search in 2008, three plots were identified as the most suitable, including two adjacent to The Bulwarks.

Then in December, SDC's cabinet approved the submission of a planning application for a preferred site of 20 new affordable homes as a rural exception site.

Rural exception sites are small, rural plots for affordable housing on which development would normally be restricted. Sanctuary Housing Association is expected to submit a planning application in October.

If it is granted, the covenant will be lifted and construction will start at the beginning of spring.

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