Plans to give Birds’ Marsh ‘village green’ status have had a boost from Chippenham town councillors.
The land around the woods is the subject of a planning application by the North Chippenham Consortium, made up of Barratt Developments, Persimmon Homes and Heron Land.
The consortium wants to build a 48.2ha development, which would include 750 new houses, land for industrial units and a primary school.
But Chippenham Community Voice, a group representing the interests of residents, is strongly opposed to the idea.
Now campaign group Friends of Birds’ Marsh has submitted an application with Wiltshire Council to have the land designated as a village green, a status that brings greater protection from development.
The group claims the area has been in public use for recreational purposes since at least 1927, and in a meeting on Thursday, nine out of ten councillors on the town council’s planning and environment committee backed the application.
Pete Humphrey, the group chairman, said: “It is a big step forward, and I’d like to recognise these councillors for making a very bold and brave decision to back this initiative.”
It is possible that the plans will now go before the full council, and then on to Wiltshire Council.
If they are successful, Mr Humphrey said that turning Birds’ Marsh into a village green will directly contravene the draft core strategy, which, when finalised, will establish the number of homes planned for the town until 2026.
The document, which has not yet been finalised, includes land near Birds’ Marsh as a potential site for building on.
“Needless to say, we hope this may finally put an end to speculative building applications involving this land,” said Mr Humphrey.
“We were pleasantly surprised to get this backing from the council. The wood will absolutely struggle if the plans to build go ahead, much as Vincent’s Wood by Frogwell has. It will cause huge damage to the ecological structure of Birds’ Marsh if 750 homes are built just metres away.”
The plans also include a link road of at least 7.3 metres width, which the campaigner said will pass the woods to distances within 60 metres.
Nine of the ten councillors at Thursday’s meeting backed the application. Coun John Scragg abstained from voting.