CAMPAIGNING residents in Meon Vale are fighting to save ancient woodland after the area was earmarked for potential development.
Cabinet members at Stratford District Council are set to consider the proposal for a further 300 homes on some 32 hectares of woodland in a meeting later today (Monday).
Last year the woods were identified as a ‘reserved housing site’ in a document known as the site allocation plan – a reserve list of potential housing sites to safeguard the district from opportunist developers. But in an updated submission of the document, the area’s status has been elevated to a ‘site specific proposal’.
If the submission’s proposal is approved, a public consultation will take place.
The plans do acknowledge significance of the area to residents and does suggest retaining some of the mature trees.
But Friends of Meon Vale Woodland Walk remain unconvinced.
They say the woodland, with its two miles of walks and picnic areas, has become a lifeline to residents especially during the pandemic.
A spokeswoman said: “During a time in which mental wellbeing has become such a prominent issue, this easily accessible and beautiful outside space has provided an oasis within an otherwise increasingly developed area. With access direct from the Greenway, the woods are in constant use, providing a relaxing escape, a stimulating space to exercise, and an opportunity for the inquisitive ‘next generation’ to get away from their screens and connect with nature.
“The woods contain a variety of habitats from grasslands and watercourses, through to forest floor and canopy. These habitats provide protection for a multitude of wildlife, including protected species of butterfly, water vole, bats, badger and pole cat.
“Not only is this green lung an environmentally focused hub for local leisure activities, but for many, this was the reason for moving to Meon Vale in the first place – an exciting and unique place in which to raise a family, and ultimately call home.”
The group is urging council leaders to reject the proposal they say would ‘rip out the heart of the Meon Vale community’.
A district council spokeswoman said: “The cabinet meeting on October 5 and council on October 19 is to approve the plan for six weeks public consultation – no decisions about this particular site have yet been made. The proposal does seek to retain mature trees and enhance the woodland areas that would remain.”