Campaigners have celebrated a “great win” as a controversial housing project in Barkham was refused planning permission.

But they warn the battle may not be over yet – with fears that developers may launch an appeal or apply again.

Developers Bewley Homes wanted permission to build 40 homes on a field at Edneys Hill. But planning officers at Wokingham Borough Council rejected their application on the grounds that it was “inappropriate” development in the countryside.

Adèle Yemm, of campaign group Save Our Edneys Hill, said: “I was part of a group of 30 to 40 of local residents who were all part of a communal group who’ve been campaigning.

“Many residents across Wokingham supported us. It’s a great first win but we all know that an appeal is going to come.”

READ MORE: Berkshire villagers oppose plan for 40 homes with banners

In plans submitted to Wokingham Borough Council, Bewley Homes said the development would prioritise protecting trees and animals’ habitats.

Their design statement said: “The landscape framework that underpins the principle of development prioritises retention of existing trees, nature recovery and habitat for wildlife; sensitively drawing on the value of existing green infrastructure on the site.”

But a planning statement submitted on Bewley’s behalf by consultants Boyer Planning acknowledged that some trees and scrubland would have to be cleared. Boyer said this would be replaced by new hedgerows and trees.

The statement said: “As a result of the proposed development and access, 14 trees will require removal, the partial removal of four groups of trees will be required.

“To compensate for the removal and works to the existing trees, the proposals incorporate additional hedgerow and tree planting, which will provide a rich and varied planting scheme across the development.”

Yet Ms Yemm said that construction workers already began clearing the land last year – and that neighbours believe this had already affected wildlife.

She said: “Predominantly our worries were about the environment and the wildlife. We’re no longer seeing deer in the gardens. This year we’ve noticed a massive reduction in Red Kite.”

Bewley Homes also argued that Wokingham Borough Council was obliged to grant them permission as it doesn’t currently have a plan to provide sufficient housing over the next five years.

But council officers argued that the proposed development would have too much of a “negative” impact on the countryside. And they weren’t convinced that the plans were enough to replace what would be lost.

They also said the road into the new development would be too narrow, and that poor public transport links would mean new residents would be too reliant on cars.