THORNBURY’S medieval fishponds have been given special status protecting them from development.

The decision by English Heritage to schedule the fishponds under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 has been welcomed by residents and the local planning authority, which was behind the application.

A spokesman for South Gloucestershire Council said: "The council is responsible for the request to English Heritage to schedule the fishponds as a monument and we are pleased that their significance is recognised."

English Heritage said the condition of the ponds and their historical significance was enough to warrant the scheduling.

In its report English Heritage said: "Given their particularly good survival and archaeological potential coupled with their strong group value and historic interest, the fishponds at Thornbury merit scheduling."

Thornbury fishponds consist of eight interconnected pools of varying size and depth. The ponds would have been used for breeding, raising and storing freshwater fish.

It is not known how old the Thornbury medieval fishponds are but they could date back as far as the 12th century.

During the medieval period fish was popular because of the observance of fast days, which forbade eating red meat. Fishponds were more usually associated with monasteries but became popular with manor houses and estates like Thornbury Castle.

Concern for the fishponds was raised locally when a neighbouring piece of land, Park Farm, was earmarked for 500 homes by South Gloucestershire Council in the authority’s Core Strategy to be built by Barratt Homes.

Rob Hudson from Save Thornbury’s Green Heritage, the campaign group set up to fight the Barratt Homes development, said: "We are delighted that English Heritage has recognised the unique character of Thornbury’s medieval fishponds, and that they will be safeguarded for the future. It is however a pity that South Gloucestershire Council wants to let Barratts build 500 houses on the fields alongside."

A spokesman for Barratt Homes said the company also welcomed the decision by English Heritage and reiterated that proposals to build at Park Farm would not infringe on the ponds.