CAMPAIGNERS opposing the creation of new homes in Minchinhampton have written publicly to developers, seeking that they postpone a planning application until a Neighbourhood Development Plan is in place.

The Community Action Group Protect Our Space was formed in April to oppose the development of Minchinhampton's green spaces, particularly a residential development proposed for the Old Vineyard field in Well Hill.

The action group have now written an open letter to the local developers Chris and Estelle Manson-Whitton, asking them to confirm that they will not pursue a planning application in the town until 2017.

They say this would allow time for the adoption of the Stroud Local Plan and potentially for the creation of a Neighbourhood Development Plan, giving residents a say in shaping future developments.

The group is particularly concerned by the Well Hill proposal because of its impact on the town’s conservation area.

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Developers, Chris and Estelle Manson-Whitton, plan to create five new houses on a six acre green field site.

The couple, who live in Minchinhampton, have also pledged to create a community orchard and make a financial gesture of £50,000 to the village school.

Chair of Protect Our Space, Phil Raby Smith, said that as there is a covenant on the land, no building could take place until 2018, so any application made now would be premature.

He said: “We can see no reason why this planning application needs to be made in 2015, two and a half years before building is possible.

“We believe it’s in the interests of everyone in the community for this proposal to be judged in the context of Stroud's Local Plan and hopefully within a Neighbourhood Development Plan, which will set clear direction for the future growth of Minchinhampton.

“As local people, we hope the developers will agree."

Moving on to the charitable gestures, he said: “Any donation to our local school would be a welcome charitable contribution but would be a separate, private matter.

“This promised donation does not form any part of the planning process, as has been claimed. Giving to the school should not be at the expense of the green fields around Minchinhampton.”

Speaking to the SNJ, Estelle Manson-Whitton outlined their plans and response to the action group’s letter.

“We're proposing to build a cluster of five new homes in the corner of the field near the existing houses on Well Hill. The design has been led by a landscape architect and would be based around a Cotswold farmstead.

“Through the new homes we would be able to give an acre of land to be used as a community orchard, planting rare local apple varieties, increasing biodiversity and opening up a lovely space for community use.

“We've been part of the Minchinhampton community for 12 years - we moved to a village in the parish in 2003. Our children are or have been pupils at Minchinhampton School and we have both volunteered and contributed to its life.

Moving on to Protect Our Space’s open letter, she said: “The opposition is being led by a very vocal group of people who live close to the site. It really saddens us that they are approaching the project in such an adversarial way.

“This project would bring real benefits to the wider community of Minchinhampton. Many local people are in favour of our ideas, but with such a loud protest group, it is hard for more moderate and considered voices to be heard.”

Addressing the group’s calls to wait until 2017 to make an application, she said: “In response to the public consultation in April and interactions since then we are undertaking some additional surveys etc before putting in the application.

“Adoption of the local plan and the potential neighbourhood development plan are long and uncertain processes.

“We have already spent over a year creating the Minch Orchard Project, with a particular focus on sustainability and contributing to the local community.

“Notwithstanding any timing constraints on the ability to build the homes, on gaining planning permission we would be able to start planting the community orchard, and provide the financial contribution to the school so that the community can see the benefits as soon as possible.

“In light of this, we are keen to progress with the project.”

Protect Our Space’s open letter can be found on their website:

Chris and Estelle’s response can be seen at their website:

Stroud News and Journal: