Rare parish poll gives thumbs down to plans for development

The village of Ampleforth
The village of Ampleforth
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Villagers in Ampleforth have voted against large-scale developments on the fields surrounding their rural homes in a rare parish poll.

Residents, determined to do everything they could to preserve rural life, forced the poll which they hope will send a signal to developers they will have a fight on their hands every time they try to build on the village’s green fields.

It is the first time Ryedale District Council has held a parish poll and it is rare for them to be held in other parts of the country.

Locals went to the ballot box to decide whether they would like to see limits placed on future development in the village.

They were asked: “Do the electors of Ampleforth wish to see a maximum development limit of four dwellings imposed on all established green-field sites throughout Ampleforth village and parish?”

Yesterday the district council said 228 had said yes, while 35 had voted no. The turnout was 32 per cent.

The result is not binding and in itself can do nothing to actually stop any development but campaigners simply hope it will send a clear signal and help to make their views clear whenever the issue rears its head.

Speaking after the results were revealed, Jo Priestman, who lives in Ampleforth said: “Our representatives on district and parish councils now have a very strong mandate to refuse attempts by planning officials and big companies to impose unnecessary growth.”

There has been some redevelopment in the village over the years. Campaigners argue they are not against development in principle but they want it to be consistent with the scale of their idyllic village.

Earlier, Anthony Winship, council solicitor for Ryedale District Council, said the rare poll had been demanded by 10 electors at a meeting of Ampleforth Parish Meeting in August.

Mr Winship added: “The background to this demand for a parish poll is the submission of a planning application by David Wilson Homes Yorkshire (East) Division for residential development comprising 30 dwellings on land off Station Road, Ampleforth.

“The application is likely to be reported to the planning committee meeting on September 18.”

Council chiefs have said local residents’ decision to press for a poll will cost local taxpayers about £1,700.

David Wilson Homes, the developer seeking permission for the 30 homes, has distributed leaflets in the village saying its development will offer affordable housing.

It says its “sensitively designed” scheme will meet Ampleforth’s housing need and will bring a number of benefits for the community.

The poll comes at a time a hearing is considering the council’s planning blueprint which will set out how much new housing, employment and retail development should go where for the next 15 years.

Last month the Yorkshire Post revealed huge swathes of Yorkshire’s green belt land could find itself under threat from development, with plans to build nearly 24,000 homes currently being considered in rural areas.

Figures published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England highlighted what it called “major new threats” to England’s green belts and warned proposals for some 80,000 new houses, new roads, open cast coal mines, airport expansion, golf courses and industrial parks nationwide could lead to land the size of Slough being built on green-belt land over the next 20 years.

In Yorkshire, plans for 23,900 homes as well as an additional 139 hectares of developments are under review, with most of the development likely to take place in West and South Yorkshire.