Controversial plans to build more than 500 new homes on green belt land between Springbank and Hayden have been heavily criticised.

Former Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, visited Cheltenham yesterday to protest against the proposal alongside campaigners, local residents and councillors.

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The proposal was made in an interim report by Government planning inspector Elizabeth Ord, who also suggested Prestbury should be made available for future housing developments.

The report states Springbank land “makes a lesser green belt contribution” and should be allocated as an “urban extension.”

This now forms part of the Joint Core Strategy, a housing blueprint for 2030 formed by Cheltenham Borough Council, Gloucester City Council and Tewksbury Borough Council.

The Green campaigner’s view: Natalie Bennett

Ms Bennett described the proposal as “horrifying”, she said: “Springbank’s greenbelt is a beautiful space which is essential to local resident’s health and wellbeing, so it would be a disaster to lose this land.

“More houses means more traffic and putting extra pressure on Cheltenham’s roads is a massive issue for everybody. Air pollution across England is killing tens of thousands of people prematurely each year and this proposal would just be adding to that figure.”

The councillor’s view: Peter Jeffries

Also at yesterday’s meeting was councillor, Peter Jeffries, who represents Springbank, he said: “Included in the proposal are three-storey office blocks less than 20 meters away from housing, there’s no green space there’s just this vision of we need to put employment here and houses here.

“I think there’s a big gulf between what the aspirations of the developers are to what the residents want. The way the people of Springbank have been treated is unfair and unjust and we need to do something about it before it’s too late.”

The local resident’s view: Carol Kingsbury

Local residents have also expressed concerns over the proposal as this area is one of the last undeveloped green belts in Cheltenham.

Carol Kingsbury, who has lived in Henley Road for over 20 years, said: “These fields are what Cheltenham is all about, we are a countryside town but if they take all this away and concrete it there will be no countryside left.

“This is our land; people bring their children here, go for dog walks, admire the views and access the village pub. It would be a disaster if it turned into housing and offices as it’s such a big asset to all the residents here.”

Last Wednesday Cheltenham councillors voted to put the proposal to public consultation and if councillors in Tewksbury and Gloucester approve the plans later this week, a two-month consultation period will start in November.

Bloor Homes and Persimmon Homes, the main developers involved in the project, have been contacted but are yet to comment.

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