TOWN councillors have given their backing to plans to build 197 homes in Berkeley.

Developers Charles Church Ltd submitted plans last month to build a large residential development on fields to the east of the town.

Twenty residents filled the town hall for an extraordinary Berkeley Town Council meeting to discuss the application on Monday (March 31) evening.

Charles Church are planning to build 114 two bedroom, 52 three bedroom and 31 four bedroom properties, 30 per cent earmarked as affordable housing.

The proposals have split public opinion; some fear Berkeley does not have the jobs and amenities to support so many new families, while others see the development as a much-needed boost to the town’s fortunes.

Jean Stanton, fiercely opposing the development, said the number and style of the houses would impact on the historic town’s character.

“We in Berkeley are privileged to be here,” she said. “What makes Berkeley special and a lovely place to live will be lost. The developers will be richer and Berkeley will be poorer.”

Residents also commented on the visual impact of the estate on Berkeley Castle, safety issues around ponds and roads, increased traffic and flood risks.

Stroud District Councillor Liz Ashton said she had been listening to what people in the town had been saying and a significant number did want more homes.

“Apart from those who worked on the docks or were lucky enough to work at the power station, everyone always commuted from Berkeley,” she said. “We need some young blood to make the place more dynamic. We don’t want to see any more decline in this town. I want to see a thriving community.”

Cllr Fraser Brown said the council should be forward-thinking, saying: “There will be houses built there eventually. We shouldn’t be opposing it, we should be deciding what kind of houses we want.”

The 11-hectare site borders the main B4066 Berkeley to Sharpness road to the north. A new access from this road is incorporated in the proposals.

Following a heated debate, six councillors voted in favour of the application, submitting points of concern including the management of landscaping and the density of houses. One councillor voted against and one abstained.

If planning permission is secured, Charles Church plan to start building late this year, finishing the estate around the end of 2017.