Bid to build bungalows on much-loved green space in Stone rejected

Residents who fought against plans for two bungalows on popular open space in their neighbourhood have won their battle – just months after they were outbid in an auction to buy the land.

The Green at Heath Gardens in Stone. Photo: Darren Lewis and Kristy Lewis
The Green at Heath Gardens in Stone. Photo: Darren Lewis and Kristy Lewis

The land at Heath Gardens in Stone was sold earlier this year.

Residents rallied round to raise funds ahead of the auction in a bid to save the site from unwanted development, but lost out to the winning bid of £18,500.

An application for planning permission in principle was submitted to Stafford Borough Council, seeking approval for two bungalows to be built and “provision of enhanced area of community amenity space on adjoining land”.

A planning statement submitted on behalf of the applicant stated: “In recognition of the fact that the site currently comprises incidental open space the applicant is content not to apply for permission in principle across the entirety of their land ownership, and is prepared to retain around a third of the site as open amenity space for the community with associated landscaping.

“The applicant is willing to enter into a unilateral undertaking to provide the land as community open space that perhaps includes some seating and some meadow seed mix planting. This would create a visually enhanced useable area of open space rather than a purely incidental one.

“The land subject to this application forms a small part of a wider area of green space. The application site does not have any particular visual character or quality or ecological value and is incidental open space as part of the original layout of the surrounding housing estate.”

But on Thursday planning officers rejected the proposal on the grounds it would result in the loss of green space and go against policies in the Stone Neighbourhood Plan and Plan for Stafford Borough.

Their report said: “The proposed residential development would result in the loss of local green infrastructure space that forms an intrinsic part of the character and appearance of the area.

“Whilst the proposal does propose to enhance a limited part of the application site, this with the other considerations promoted by the applicant does not outweigh the harm associated with the proposed development.

“The application should therefore be refused.”

Stafford Borough Council received 95 objections to the application, with reasons including loss of green space and impact on wildlife.

Residents said the green space was a haven for families seeking fresh air and outdoor exercise during the lockdown periods of the past year and before the pandemic too.

One Heath Gardens resident said: “Children have played on this green for many years. I used it as a child myself 45 years ago. My own seven children used it almost daily from Feb 1997 until a few years ago.

“Over the years families have come from other streets to play games of rounders, badminton, and volleyball etc. It is a well used space. The local children have no other convenient safe green spaces of this size to play on that they can safely walk to. This space is the only safe space for the children of the top end of Walton to safely come and play.

“Local dog walkers come to the green to throw a ball for their dog to run. Some elderly people use it for their dogs and it is the only green space within easy walking distance of their home.”

Another Heath Gardens resident said: “Heath Gardens was developed over 50 years ago with the green open space an integral part of the layout. This green space characterises Heath Gardens, forming a village green-like aspect to the houses and bungalows that surround it.

“Erecting one or two bungalows on the current green and fencing off a small area with benches would destroy this character. Green spaces have always been important – and with the need to improve public mental health and well-being the current green space has become more so.”

An Oulton Road resident said: “The green is used by children and is an integral part of the look and feel of this community. There is no value to the community from developing this space.”

Stone Town Council also objected to the plans “in the strongest possible terms”.

The land was classed as local green infrastructure in the Stone Neighbourhood Plan which is being formally adopted as a legal document after residents voted to back it in a referendum last month.

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