“In my opinion, the council and the councillors should be protecting the residents’ interests” - that’s the message from green belt expert Richard Knox-Johnston about controversial plans to build 4,000 homes on Jealott’s Hill.

Bracknell Forest Council’s (BFC) draft local plan includes proposals to build the homes on 240 hectares of land owned by multi-national tech company Syngenta - but Warfield residents are not happy about the designs, with more than 3,700 signing a petition to save the open space at the site.

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More than 140 of these residents gathered in Warfield to hear from representatives of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) on Friday, January 24, where Mr Knox-Johnston, of the London Green Belt Council, explained the benefits of keeping the countryside intact.

Bracknell News:

Positives of the Green Belt ranged from environmental advantages, such as high carbon dioxide absorption, he said, to flood prevention, to individual wellbeing benefits such as stress reduction and access to recreation space.

Creating the settlement and losing the green space, he claimed, would mean more than 22,500 extra vehicle movements and would mean more noise, light and air pollution.

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Mr Knox-Johnston, who has a number of years of campaigning to protect the Green Belt behind him, questioned why BFC plans to ahead with the Jealott’s Hill proposal given it can already demonstrate a housing supply of more than six years.

Bracknell News:

BFC planning boss Cllr Chris Turrell cancelled his attendance at the meeting after suggesting there was an element of "mission creep" surrounding the meeting, which he worried might detract from the "evidence-based local plan process".

Instead, a question and answer session following Mr Knox-Johnston’s speech was taken by CPRE Berkshire representatives.

Syngenta representatives and Adam Afriyie MP were also invited to the meeting, but did not attend.

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Two councillors from the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) were at the meeting, however, and councillor Phil Haseler, who fought against Green Belt development in his Cox Green ward, said RBWM had submitted two objections to the Jealott’s Hill plans.

He also offered advice to residents about how to campaign against the plans, telling them to “be focused”.

Bracknell News:

CPRE bosses urged residents to lobby their MPs, ask for information about the plans via Freedom of Information requests and spread awareness on social media as some ways to gain support for their campaign.

Rebecca Murphy, CPRE Berkshire Bracknell District Chairman, added: “It is really important for you to come together and pool resources - try and get together as a complete entity.

“The more people you can find and get together, the better.

“If you can reach them you can come together as a community and make a difference.”