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Upbeat: Forster's laager

THE final battle is being fought in a near-50-year struggle over green space around Rooks Nest House near Stevenage - aka E M Forster's 'Howard's End', and the long- time home of the composer Elizabeth Poston, writes Andrew Green. Forster and Poston (who died in 1987) created a formidable partnership soon after the Second World War to resist the sprawl of Stevenage New Town - 'the cancer of concrete,' said Poston, many of whose compositions were inspired by the Rooks Nest environment.

Urban development has now reached one side of the lane on which the house stands. Campaigners fear the implication of what they see as Stevenage Council dragging its feet over ratifying the 1992 findings of a public inquiry which recommended adjusting the Green Belt to prevent the encroachment of developers on to 'Forster Country'. An appeal by a potential developer is currently before the council. Malcolm Williamson, Master of the Queen's Music, who lived at the house after Poston's death, insists there are '. . . ways and means around this situation without demolishing countryside that can never be recreated. Forster Country is Hertfordshire's gift to the nation.'

A spokesman for Stevenage Council insists that 'everything is above board. Developers have every right to make representations and considering them is a long and involved process.'