CONTROVERSIAL plans for a 188-home development on green fields in Berkeley were rejected after a tense two-hour council debate.

The application by Charles Church Development Ltd was turned down at Tuesday’s meeting of Stroud District Council’s development control committee.

Despite amendments by the developer, the plan was refused on the grounds that it would have a negative impact on the landscape and the Grade-I listed Berkeley Castle.

John Stanton, chairman of the association of Berkeley Residents Against Inappropriate Development, said: “We are absolutely delighted because if this development went ahead it would have desecrated the entrance to Berkeley..

“If it had been carried it would have been a sad reflection on the council’s view towards impact on landscape and our heritage.

“We’re not against new development, but are against a development of this size and scale in this location. We support the emerging Local Plan which looks to place houses where they best meet the needs of the community.”

The development was first brought before a committee in December last year but was deferred so that Charles Church could work with planning officers in an attempt to reduce the impact on Berkeley Castle and the surrounding landscape.

The original plan covered three fields next to Berkeley Castle, but the updated scheme reduced the number of houses from 196 to 188, leaving the field closest to the castle completely clear.

District councillor for Berkeley, Gordon Craig, argued that discussions between planning officers and the developers did not occur.

Speaking to the committee, he said: “I don’t need to remind you that you deferred this plan in December so that the developers could have detailed discussions with officers to reduce the impact on the landscape and heritage assets.

“These discussions have never taken place. The developers simply took it upon themselves to resubmit the plans.”

When the issue reached debate the argument remained predominantly between those in favour of preserving Berkeley Castle and those who felt a desperate need for additional housing in the town.

Berkeley’s other district councillor Liz Ashton supported the development.

“Young people talk to me all the time and say ‘please can we have these houses. We were brought up in Berkeley and we really want to stay in this area but can’t afford it,’” she said.

“If this gets thrown out I shall be very very upset.”

Ultimately a motion to carry the proposal was rejected after only receiving three votes, followed by a successful motion to refuse by Conservative councillor Dorcas Binns.

Steve Roche, managing director at Persimmon Homes Severn Valley, a sister company of Charles Church Developments Ltd, said: “We were left deeply disappointed by the decision of the planning committee to refuse our planning application despite receiving an officer’s recommendation to allow residential development.

“We are, of course, considering our options, one of which is to appeal the decision - a decision which, as it currently stands, deprives Berkeley and the district council of housing, jobs and investment.”