Residents’ rallying cry to protect Wayland Wood from development

Residents in Watton are concerned for the future of Wayland Wood. Picture: Ian Burt

Residents in Watton are concerned for the future of Wayland Wood. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Campaigners have rallied against a planning appeal which they fear could threaten a famous ancient woodland as well as putting a strain on services.

As revealed in last week's Times, the application from Gladman Developments to build 180 homes off Thetford Road could put Wayland Wood, at the heart of the well known Babes in the Wood myth, at risk.

The application was turned down after 240 local objections and ahead of its appeal hearing next week, tensions are still running high among residents.

What Watton Wants, set up following public discontent about increasing development in the town said the community is feeling 'trampled down' by the recent influx of planning applications.

In a statement the group said it was not against sustainable development, but necessary infrastructure needed to be put in place first.

'We feel that as a community we are literally being trampled upon, with no possibility to make any change in the course of the events and applications,' it said.

Residents speaking out against the development cited Watton's inability to cope with further growth, especially considering the neighbouring parishes which already rely on its facilities, as a primary concern.

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Resident Kathryn Stallard said: 'The rate of development is not tenable for the services being offered. Everybody here is concerned for Watton and any families who may be moving into the town because it's not providing them with what they need to be part of the community.'

Protesters have also spoken out to protect Wayland Wood, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), from being encroached upon by the proposed development.

Claire Bowes, district councillor for Watton, has said that an urban development would put the woodland 'at increased risk from serious pollution caused by littering and misuse'.

In its statement What Watton Wants said: 'The ancient woodland featured in the legend 'Babes in the Wood' will detrimentally be affected if no specific conditions are put in place to protect the flora, fauna and wildlife of the woodland and surrounding areas.'

There were further concerns about traffic congestion in Watton and a lack of local employment opportunities.

Gladman Developments declined to comment on the appeal. Breckland Council has recommended that it be dismissed.

The hearing will take place at Queens Hall in Watton on Tuesday, March 8 from 10am.

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