A true David and Goliath story

Your brief coverage (June 5) of the final and long awaited development management plan (aka local plan) certainly deserved mention of the major triumph that the planning inspector has finally put a total stop to any intention by the council to develop Robsack meadow.

The achievement to save this idyllic open space of 1.24 hectares with flora and fauna sheltered between two ancient woodlands and removed from the local plan and saved for the future is all down to Patricia (Paddy) Stephenson.

Her seven-year devotion, determination and refusal to relent to HBC’s intention to develop this meadow is outstanding and deserves a standing ovation.

With some assistance from three other local residents, Paddy’s personal campaign was a David v Goliath scenario few ever succeed.

Through her representations to the inspector she was able to convey the folly of the council’s intention to build apartments on such a quintessential setting between two ancient woodlands that would have been a loss of an important bio-diverse site.

What is so ironic the council’s own environment and natural resources officer, Murray Davidson wrote an eight-page report on Robsack meadow in 1998 to the planning department citing what an important significant this site is in the borough.

Affirming any development would and listing a few of his objections it would: “destroy an area of semi natural grass land – adversely affect the matrix of habitats in the area – impact upon a range and diversity of wildlife – contrary to the policies of protection for habitat and the green network.”

Refusing to acknowledge this report by their own expert the then head of planning Tim Cookson ploughed on with determination to build on this site, commissioning numerous ecology reports wasting over £20,000 of tax payer’s money.

The last report even suggested removing and relocating all wildlife from the meadow to facilitate developing it.

Little known is the application in 2008 planners put to the committee to build on the site.

This of course was passed with then chairman Cllr Daniel advising his members how they must pass this application or it would go to appeal.

A bizarre statement when it was council-owned land and who would they appeal against?

Enter Paddy who with the help of legal advice found this application and decision legally flawed and bought it all to a halt.

Following a visit to the site the planning inspector Mr Hollox aptly noted: “Even on a dull morning in late November, this land is a thing of beauty and a joy to behold.”

Richard Heritage

Old Bury Hill Gardens

Westcott