Power to the village
people as
poll takes
on builders

So determined are they to preserve rural life that residents in one North Yorkshire village are preparing to go to the polls to fight against any future development which they fear could spoil the green fields they cherish.

With its historic abbey, its stone built homes and neatly cut grass verges, much in historic Ampleforth has a familiar feel about it and for many that is the very attraction of village life.

But now residents, who have decided to take matters into their own hands, have forced a poll which they hope will warn developers they will have a fight on their hands every time they try to build on their green fields.

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Today will be the first time Ryedale District Council has held a parish poll and they have rarely been held in other parts of the country.

Locals will go to the ballot box to decide whether they would like to see limits placed on future development in the village. The result will not be binding but campaigners hope, if successful, it will help to make their views clear whenever the issue of redevelopment rears its head.

Yesterday, one resident, Derek Horsley, 84, said: “I live in a village and I want it to remain a village.

“We do not want rural development on a large scale.

“Villages are part of the rural scene, you build modern houses all over it and it won’t be.”

Residents invited to go to the polls on the issue will be asked: “Do the electors of Ampleforth wish to see a maximum development limit of 4 (four) dwellings imposed on all established green-field sites throughout Ampleforth village and parish?”

Council chiefs have said local residents’ decision to press for a poll would cost local taxpayers around £1,700, but it comes at a time when a developer has submitted a full planning application to build 30 homes in Ampleforth.

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

Jo Priestman, who lives in Ampleforth, said: “There are homes in the village that are not selling, so why destroy everything?”

“We are happy for small-scale building that does not ruin the green field.”

Many in the village share her concerns she says, but as she went around campaigning and urging people to vote yesterday she said there are some who are in favour of development as it 
will bring more people into the area.

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.

But Mrs Priestman is worried the village, although it has a shop, Post Office, pubs and a village hall, does not have the transport links and job opportunities to cope with so many new families.

“There’s no jobs around here, you can see what the roads are like around here and there’s a limited bus service,” she said.

Just moments before two lorries struggled to pass each other on the main road running through Ampleforth, causing traffic build-ups.

Mary Gray added: “Its beautiful here. There’s a lot of wildlife, a lot of birds and it’s just going to be ruined.”

A hearing is also 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 how 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 the region’s rural areas.

Figures published by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) highlighted what it calls “major new threats” to England’s green belts.

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.”