CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a historical hedgerow and protected trees on a former primary school site in Yate have won a stay of execution.
Residents and councillors joined forces with local tree and wildlife experts to protect a hedge which dates back to 1882 and numerous ancient tree specimens on what was once Rodford Primary School, where Bellway Homes wants to build 57 new homes.
They called on South Gloucestershire Council, which owns the land and wants to sell it with planning permission for a seven-figure sum, not to approve the plans which would see the felling of high quality trees and the destruction of the hedgerow.
At a crunch meeting on Thursday (July 31), members of the council’s development control east committee unanimously agreed to defer the application until Bellway comes up with a more sensitive plan.
Cllr Alan Lawrance (Lib Dem, Dodington) said: “There has been great concern from local residents and in fact the council’s own tree officers and landscape architects over some very fine trees and a particularly notable hedgerow.
“It would be very sad to lose them and at the moment the plan impinges on the hedgerow rather badly.”
Local tree expert Iain Garrett said: “I think it is clear that the developer has taken absolutely no notice of any tree-related concern raised throughout this application.
“If permission is granted to this application it will be in breach of the relevant environmental policies of the council, and south Yate will potentially loose one of the few ecologically, aesthetically and historically important landscape features which remain in the built environment.”
He added: “The sale of this site by South Gloucestershire Council, which is dependent on planning permission being given, must be based on what is best for the community and not on potential financial gain.
“I had been worried it would be pushed through just to get the money. "
Town councillor Chris Willmore said the number of houses was not being contested only their location in particular, a block of flats at the southern boundary of the site.
“The problems were made clear at a site inspection meeting but the developers have barely moved an inch," she said. "They have ignored concerns and are the authors of their own failure.
“It is good to see the council acting independently and standing up for residents and the trees. The worst thing that could happen now is Bellway pulls out but with the market picking up, the council may even find it sells the land for more money.”
Residents have also raised concerns over increased traffic on Barnwood Road, the impact on existing homes in neighbouring Hardwicke and the number of homes planned for the site.
Bellway Homes said it believed the plans were sensitive.
“It is an attractive development which will protect and enhance the landscape and ecology of the site,” a statement said.
Rodford Primary School closed in 2010, despite a heartfelt campaign by parents to save it, because of surplus pupil numbers. Classrooms were demolished a year later but the playing fields have been retained for community use.
Revised plans by Bellway Homes could be considered later this month or at the council’s September planning meeting.