Hous­ing plans Woman’s plea to save ‘last few acres’ of farm

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - Robin JENK­INS robin.jenk­[email protected]­plc.com

AWOMAN has made a pas­sion­ate plea for de­vel­op­ers to keep their hands off a site she says is “pre­cious” and should not be built on.

Sharon Hunt spent many happy hours play­ing at Oak­ley Farm as a child and is hor­ri­fied that it has been ear­marked by de­vel­oper Robert Hitchins Lim­ited for 250 homes.

The site is at the back of Sains­bury’s su­per­mar­ket in Pri­ors Road, Chel­tenham. It is be­tween Harp Hill to the south, Pil­low­ell Close to the north and houses and the undergroun­d Hewlett’s Reser­voir to the east.

Dozens of peo­ple have al­ready spo­ken out against the plans of the de­vel­oper, which has said it in­tends to sub­mit a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion to the bor­ough coun­cil. There are fears that build­ing on the site would see coun­try­side on the edge of the town dis­ap­pear for­ever.

Mrs Hunt, who now lives in Chal­ford Hill, near Stroud, but used to live in Rye­worth Road, Charl­ton Kings, close to the site, said: “Oak­ley Farm has been such a mag­i­cal place in my life and my fam­ily’s life thanks to my great grand­par­ents who went there a long time ago with Grandma, who was 13 and died there at the age of 97.

“We had the most won­der­ful child­hood. On a small farm, at the time, we got up to all sorts of mis­chief.

“I’m re­ally sad­dened to find out that Hitchins are go­ing to try to build 250 houses on this pre­cious bit of land.

“It used to be 150 acres. It’s now about 36, I think. There’s still po­ten­tial here to have some sort of estab­lish­ment that could still ben­e­fit the gen­eral pub­lic.

“How about an ‘olde worlde’ farm on a very small scale and turn back the clock on Oak­ley Farm? Take it back as much as pos­si­ble to as it used to be years ago, with pos­si­ble rare breeds.”

The 59-year-old added that the site could be used to ed­u­cate chil­dren and adults about the coun­try­side and farm an­i­mals.

Re­fer­ring to when her grand­par­ents rented the farm and she would visit it, Mrs Hunt said: “There were won­der­ful trees, flora and fauna. Al­low­ing all of us to be up close and hands-on with na­ture like this was such a good ed­u­ca­tion, one that I won’t ever for­get.

“We all knew that one day Oak­ley Farm would no longer be part of our fam­ily and would only be in our mem­o­ries. It’s heart­break­ing to think of the last few acres be­ing built on, not just for us as a fam­ily but for ev­ery­one.

“We need our pre­cious trees, hedges, grass­land and flow­ers more now than ever and so do all crea­tures, great and small. We are all very aware of the ur­gent need for more hous­ing but at what cost?

“Just back in sum­mer 2007, we had mass flood­ing, and all ended up on bot­tled wa­ter. This could so eas­ily hap­pen again. Oak­ley Farm al­ready has a net­work of pipes run­ning un­der its pas­tures but still the fields up above help act as a nat­u­ral soak-away. Where will all this wa­ter end up when these last few re­main­ing fields be­come yet more con­crete?

“As hu­mans some of us never seem to know when enough is enough. Hasn’t poor old Oak­ley Farm given up enough of her land al­ready?”

A spokes­woman for Robert Hitchins Lim­ited said it de­clined to com­ment on this oc­ca­sion. She added that there was no date yet for when a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion might be sub­mit­ted.

Pic­ture: Mark Watkins

Sharon Hunt’s fam­ily rented Oak­ley Farm when she was a child and she is ‘heart­bro­ken’ the re­main­ing land could be de­vel­oped; in­set, Sharon with her brother Paul at the farm in Bat­tle­down in the 1960s

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