MPs and Campaigners Rally at Swindon Village 27th Sept 2008

MPs and Campaigners Rally at Swindon Village 27th Sept 2008

MORE than 100 countryside campaigners, residents, councillors and MPs rallied in Swindon Village to protest against plans for thousands of homes on the greenbelt.

There were cheers and claps from the Seasons Business and Leisure Complex, in Quat Goose Lane, as politicians called for townspeople to lobby against Government proposals to build 8,100 homes around Cheltenham, including 5,000 on the edge of Swindon Village, as part of the Draft Regional Spatial Strategy.

The meeting was led by protest group Save the Countryside, with speeches from Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood and Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson, who gave advice on action to take.

There were calls for revolt as residents heard the Government had failed to take into account space already within the town, flooding concerns following last year’s crisis, or the need for new infrastructure including roads and schools to support the area of new housing.

Concerns were also voiced about the short amount of time taken by Government inspectors to assess Cheltenham for housing

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Helen Wells, chairman of Save the Countryside, told the crowds: “We’re here to make the maximum impact for our cause.

“The Government wants to massively increase the size of our beautiful town by 26 per cent and we’re not having it.

“Let’s all be clear, it’s our last chance to save our beautiful countryside.

“We have nationwide support and have come a long way since our inception seven months ago. It’s up to us to make our mark.”

Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson added: “We are all concerned about this issue.

“We have experienced problems with flooding and further development is only going to make this worse.

“The Government is not listening to us and it’s important to campaign and fight this.

“Once thousands of houses are built in the wrong place it’s too late and we’ll have to live with our mistakes.”

Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood called for public protests in London against the plans.

He said: “We cannot be bullied with accusations of being nimbys.

“We need a test that makes sure space in urban areas is used first and this should be part of the Draft Regional Spatial Strategy.

“That will help us to defend the countryside.

“Laurence and I also need to get together with MPs in the south west and go to London with bus loads of people behind us to make the Government listen.

“If we turn up the political heat, then just maybe we might become a success story.”

Mike Griffiths travelled from Elmstone Hardwick for the meeting.

He said: “This is not just a campaign by people from Swindon Village, but by the people of Cheltenham and Tewkesbury.

“Residents from both towns have joined together to present a stronger case against these plans.”

The public have until October 24 to make their views known on the Draft Regional Spatial Strategy through a consultation process.

■ Have your say by emailing rssconsult@gosw.gsi.gov.uk.

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