Housing giant bulldozes 24 brand new homes after building on land without planning permission
Last updated at 6:48 PM on 21st December 2011
Part of a brand new housing estate was bulldozed today after a housing giant was defeated by a band of residents in a landmark planning battle.
Developers Taylor Wimpey were forced to tear down 24 properties which were built on protected historic land following a tribunal.
Taylor Wimpey began building 124 homes on the site in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, after buying the land for £11.5million in 2006.
However local residents claimed that a 1.8-acre corner of the site was subject to a historic covenant dating back to the 1930s which protects it from development.
Earlier this year they won a three-day Land Tribunal hearing which ordered the construction firm to knock down 24 properties.
Residents watched in delight as the houses were reduced to a pile of rubble today.
Malcolm Stennett, 72, chairman of Prestbury Parish Council, welcomed the move but criticised Taylor Wimpey for delaying the demolition work.
Estate: The developers were originally granted permission to build 124 homes
He said: ‘It has taken the developer an inordinate amount of time to comply with the land tribunal decision, but this is a step towards the reinstatement of the land.’
Residents have been fighting to save the land since 2000 when it was earmarked as ‘developable’ by Tewkesbury Borough Council.
The authority held a public inquiry into the land in 2002, which backed up the council’s view and Taylor Wimpey was allowed to purchase the land.
Crucially, it was their responsibility to ensure that the land was free from protective covenants before it began building the 124-home Noverton View estate.
But the land was protected by a covenant put in place when it was sold in 1936 by owner Henry Edward Ripley, who stipulated that nothing could be built on 1.8-acre area south of Mill Lane.
A group of around 30 residents launched legal action as soon as the company encroached on the protected land in 2007.
It was estimated that the development would cause their properties to lose up to £100,000 in value, with residents losing their views.
There were also fears about an increased flooding risk and traffic congestion.
The Land Tribunal hearing in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, in January heard how the developer had been aware of the covenant before it started building.
Speaking after the landmark ruling, Geoff Beardmore, who led the group of residents, said it was a David and Goliath victory.
He said: ‘We did not seek confrontation with the developers and did everything possible to persuade them to respect the covenant.
‘It is regrettable that we were forced to go all the way to the wire to obtain this result, but I hope it will give encouragement to other groups who are challenging inappropriate developments.
‘This decision sends a clear message to all developers. They cannot ignore either restrictive covenants or the views of residents entitled to benefit from them.”’
The 24 part-built properties have now been reduced to a pile of rubble, with workers starting a fire to burn some of the wood cladding from the houses.
It is unclear what the site will now be used for, with residents hoping that it could be made into an allotment area with a children’s play park.
The plot of disputed land is now thought to be worth just £20,000.
Speaking at the time of the tribunal ruling, delighted resident John Foley, 76, added: ‘It’s fantastic news.
‘Hopefully this sends out a clear message that developers cannot just do whatever they want.’
Taylor Wimpey declined to comment on the demolition work yesterday – although it admitted it was ‘disappointed’ with the ruling in January.
It was unable to say how long the work would last for.