Decision taken on huge bid for 375 homes, business park and school near town

Newent residents outside the Forest of Dean District Council's offices in Coleford. More than 2,500 people oppose plans to build 375 homes south of Gloucester Street
-Credit: (Image: Submitted)


The public gallery erupted with applause as controversial plans to build 375 homes, a business park and a new school in a town near Gloucester were rejected today (Tuesday, July 9). Robert Hitchins Ltd has been refused permission to develop almost 60 acres of agricultural land south of Gloucester Street in Newent.

Forest of Dean District Council considered and rejected the scheme which included a first form entry primary school including nursery, up to 83,958.5 sq ft of employment land and a centre which could have had shops, cafes and a hot food takeaway. More than 2,500 people signed a petition against the proposals and there were marches in the streets last year against the plans.

Residents raised concerns that the town’s already struggling sewage infrastructure would not be able to cope with the extra demand. Other people in Newent feared the new estate, which could have housed up to 1,000 people, would have turned the market town into “a dormitory for Gloucester with no identity”.

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The District Council issued a notice last month saying that the scheme does not comply with the adopted local plan. And officers recommended that councillors should vote for delegated refusal as most of the development site lies outside the town’s settlement boundary.

And the scheme is considered to be unsustainable development in the countryside. The new housing site would have led to a loss of some of the best and most versatile agricultural land in the UK.

And they said the proposal had failed to show it can be carried out without harming protected species and habitats. Council officers also said there was not enough information to show how impacts on the road network would be addressed.

Consultants working on the scheme said the new estate off Gloucester Street in Newent would provide a range of one to five bedroom homes.
Consultants working on the scheme said the new estate off Gloucester Street in Newent would provide a range of one to five bedroom homes. -Credit:FoDDC

There was also insufficient information to demonstrate that the proposal will not have a harmful impact in terms of noise on the living conditions of existing and future occupiers, according to the officers. And they also pointed out that there was no provision for affordable housing, play parks, sports pitches nor a contribution to health services, policing, education and libraries.

Newent Benefice Rector Simon Mason spoke against the proposals at the development management committee meeting. He said the community is already suffering the effect of new housing and any more would “compound the problem”.

“Our infrastructure is already past breaking point at capacity,” he said. “We are affected now and would be more so.”

He also spoke of the loss of unique habitats and some of the best agricultural land in the county if the housing estate were to be built. Councillor Joshua Robertson spoke against the scheme on behalf of Newent Town Council.

He said the town council supports housing growth which is matched with investment in services, employment and an enhanced town centre. Town councillors are concerned housing is being delivered without improvements to local services.

“Newent as a whole still lacks the investment indicated in current and previous local plan strategies,” he said.

Ward councillor Gill Moseley (LD, Newent and Taynton) said Newent needs a pause “in relentless development which has enlarged the town dramatically in recent years”.

“If more expansion is to come, we need some breathing space," she said. "Importantly, to encourage economic growth to stop Newent becoming even more of a commuter town than it is already.”

And fellow ward councillor Julia Gooch (Progressive Independents, Newent and Taynton) questioned why land of such high agricultural land was allocated for development in the upcoming new local plan. She said if approved the housing would be a burden on local health services and infrastructure. Cllr Gooch called on the committee to reject the plans.

Consultants working on the scheme previously said the new estate would provide a range of one to five bedroom homes. And they believed the proposals demonstrated that a high quality, responsive and sustainable development is achievable and deliverable for land south east of Newent.

However, Councillor Ian Whitburn (I, Coleford) said the scheme was an “awful application for the people of Newent" and could see no reason to approve the proposals. This was seconded by Cllr Patrick Kyne (L, Coleford)

And Cllr Simon Phelps (I, Westbury-on-Severn) echoed concerns over the potential loss of some of the county’s best farmland.

The committee voted unanimously to reject the scheme. The public gallery erupted with applause as the decision was announced by chairman Dave Wheeler (G, Newland and Sling).