Chippenham town councillor Melody Thompson is worried that the much-lauded village green status given to parts of Birds Marsh, Chippenham, will do more harm than good.

Campaigners fighting plans to build 750 homes and a primary school north of Chippenham were delighted last year when the status was granted to part of the site by the government.

Now councillors fear the big development will still go ahead but plans by the builders to create a children’s ecology centre will no longer be allowed on the area earmarked as a village green. The developers had also said they may pay Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to manage the wooded section of the land.

But Coun Thompson said: “Village green status is a new status and not many of them have been granted yet anywhere in the country. But the rules governing them are very strenuous.

“It is not possible to even put footpaths or signs on it so Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is now worried that if anything goes wrong they would be liable.

“It is a big shame if the ecology centre is lost and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Birds Marsh to be handed over to the trust where it could be properly managed for years to come has been scuppered.

“My view is the housing developments are increasingly likely and I feel we should get everything we can from the developers while we have the opportunity.”

Fellow town councillor Nick Watts is also worried about the status affecting any deal that can be done with the builders and wants to hold a meeting before a final decision is made by Wiltshire Council’s strategic planning committee.

He said: “I think this is a legal matter and the only way forward would be to get a barrister involved. It would be a shame if by giving this land extra protection it can no longer be passed to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.”

Persimmon and Barratt are both stakeholders in the Birds Marsh scheme and Andrew Ross, an associate director with agents Turley, said they would be keen to start building as soon as possible if permission was granted.

But he said the finer details of what the developers would give to the community as part of the plan would take some time to work out.