People power saves village land

PUBLISHED: 12:56 06 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:46 02 March 2010

VILLAGERS are celebrating winning their campaign to prevent developers building homes on a meadow cherished by local people.

And residents are now investigating the possibility of registering the meadow as common land, to protect it from any further development bids in the future.

VILLAGERS are celebrating winning their campaign to prevent developers building homes on a meadow cherished by local people.

And residents are now investigating the possibility of registering the meadow as common land, to protect it from any further development bids in the future.

Landowners, Ipswich-based firm Elizabeth Holdings, had hoped to build houses on the land behind the Five Bells pub at Rattlesden, near Stowmarket.

More than 220 protesters signed a petition opposing the development and more than 100 people sent in protest letters to Mid Suffolk District Council, as the council considered whether to grant outline planning permission.

The village is well known for its thatched cottages and stunning views. Villagers feared if the development went ahead they would lose a key open space and views would be ruined.

Lord Michael Morris and his wife Lady Nicola Morris, who live in Rattlesden, are among those who have been campaigning against the development.

They are now exploring the possibility of having the land registered as common land under the Commons Registration Act, to prevent any chance of development in the future. They believe that since the land has been used for community activities, it can be registered.

Lord Morris said: "There are spectacular views up to the beautiful church and this would be infill right slap in the middle of the conservation area. It would be monstrous if there is an appeal, it will be turned down again.''

His wife added: "We want to protect this for future generations. This is a meadow right in the middle of the village, it's a nice area, used by the community. The Bells' Meadow has been used for rugby matches for ever and a day, marquees have been out on there for villages bashes.''

At the time of the application Elizabeth Holdings chief executive Richard Cattermole had offered at least 50% of the land to the parish council for recreational use, subject to negotiation, and stressed the need for new homes. Although it was an outline planning application, it was believed it would have involved three new homes being built.

Mr Cattermole said yesterday: "I can't understand it, it's a mud patch, a field for old horses and I offered to give half away for amenities. If it goes to appeal I will not have to give half of the land away. I'm disappointed naturally and will look in to this.''

The site is an ancient riverbed and villagers believed the open space the developers proposed to leave is an area that floods.

A spokesman for the district council said the application was refused because the council felt it would harm the character of the village, the Conservation Area, the local views across to the Grade one listed church; there is a flood risk on the site; and it encroached on the green.

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